System will test its ability to respond to lethal infectious disease outbreaks by innoculating 6,000 employees
MAYWOOD, Ill. - Loyola University Health System will conduct a 24-hour emergency response exercise to test its ability to quickly and efficiently administer mass immunizations by inoculating its more than 6,000-member staff against influenza.
The drill begins at 7 a.m. Thursday, Oct. 23, and will take place at the system's 61-acre campus in Maywood and at its 25 primary and specialty care facilities in Cook, Will and DuPage counties. Media are welcome to attend.
Employees will be notified of the drill when the words "Code Triage, Internal" pop up on the screens of their computers. Notification of the drill will also be broadcast overhead, through Loyola's Intranet and on large plasma televisions located throughout the system.
The exercise will also provide an opportunity to immunize a significant proportion of Loyola's employees at one time. The Centers for Diseases Control recommends that all health-care workers should receive a flu shot to protect them and prevent them from spreading influenza to their patients, family members and other close contacts.
"The scenario will be an avian flu epidemic and we will use the influenza vaccine to test our procedures," said Dr. Katherine Martens, clinical assistant professor, emergency medical services, Loyola University Chicago Stritch School of Medicine, Maywood. "Every staff member is required to participate in the drill by going to a vaccination station, even if they have been previously vaccinated or choose to decline vaccination."
The flu (or influenza) is a highly contagious viral infection that attacks the respiratory system. Each year in the U.S. between five to 20 percent of the population contracts the flu. Symptoms include an abrupt onset of fever, chills, headaches, exhaustion, aching muscles and a constant, unproductive cough. In extreme cases, the flu can lead to pneumonia or death. Most people recover but about 36,000 Americans die and 200,000 are hospitalized from the flu each year.
"Flu is primarily spread by respiratory droplets,â said Dr. Michael Koller, associate professor, Loyola University Stritch Chicago School of Medicine. âWhen somebody with influenza coughs or sneezes, out shoots this spray of flu virus that can infect anyone nearby."
A flu pandemic spreads on a global scale and strikes irregularly with very high illness and mortality rates. The Asian flu in 1957 and Hong Kong flu in 1968 were the last pandemic flu outbreak. The Centers for Disease Control estimates that the next flu pandemic could result in up to 207,000 deaths, 734,000 hospitalizations and 47 million people becoming sick in the United States.
"No one can predict when a natural epidemic or bioterrorism attack will occur. However, what we learn from this drill could save lives," Martens said. "If we someday experience a serious outbreak of a deadly disease, such as bird flu, we will have a plan, which has been tested in a realistic scenario, ready to put into action."
Photos and interview opportunities are available. Media planning to attend should contact Perry Drake in the media relations division of Loyola at (708) 216-7940, on his cell phone at (708) 441-7736 or call (708) 216-9000 and have him paged.