Organizations gather H1N1 flu resources online

The AMA has established a Web site with clinical guidance, treatment information and news.

By Susan J. Landers — Posted May 5, 2009

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The Internet has made it easy for physicians to keep up with the latest on the A(H1N1) virus, being called swine flu.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has a comprehensive Web site, updated daily and including information on which patients to test (link).

CDC alerts can be received via e-mail to handheld devices.

Swine flu videos posted on YouTube by the agency were viewed by 1.1 million people during the last week of April, said Anne Schuchat, MD, interim deputy director for the CDC's Science and Public Health Program. The agency's Twitter account, CDCemergency, is registering one tweet per second, officials said. CDC flu audio and video resources are listed online (link).

"The important thing is for physicians to have this on their radar screens," said American Medical Association Secretary Ardis D. Hoven, MD, an infectious diseases specialist in Lexington, Ky. She was fielding a dozen calls a day from concerned physicians in her area. "Physicians have to keep themselves updated as to what is evolving around them. This means getting on a Web site every day and learning."

AMA consolidates resources

The AMA has created a special Web site with extensive influenza information (link).

That site includes a link to the World Health Organization's site and a letter from AMA President Nancy H. Nielsen, MD, PhD, in which she counsels vigilance when seeing patients suspected of having the H1N1 virus.

"Take a travel history from anyone with significant acute respiratory illness," she wrote. Plus, "Take appropriate precautions yourself, wearing an N95 respirator or a surgical mask, gown and gloves."

Dr. Nielsen said that since public health budgets are stretched thin, physicians should refrain from collecting specimens from patients who seem to have a common cold.

Physicians should take advantage of ties formed with local health departments during public health emergency preparedness efforts mounted in recent years. They should check health department Web sites to see what is happening in their communities, said Karen Smith, MD, MPH, a public health officer in Napa County, Calif.

Physicians obtaining specimens from patients who may be infected should follow instructions posted by the CDC (link).

Local health departments will have additional information on where and how to send the specimens.

Physicians also should prepare office staff on how to deal with patients who may have the virus.

"Walk them through the process of how to handle cases," Dr. Hoven said. "That will save a lot of problems in terms of patients who are too sick and should be sent to the emergency department and turning away folks who really should be seen."

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