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Influenza is a highly contagious, acute febrile respiratory illness caused by the influenza virus. Epidemic outbreaks of influenza occur every year in the United States and around the world. These outbreaks result in an average of 200,000 hospitalizations and 36,000 deaths each year in the United States (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention [CDC], 2011; Thompson et al., 2010). Most fatal cases of influenza in the United States occur in the very young, the very old, and those whose immune systems are compromised (Thompson et al., 2010). However, influenza viruses can infect people of any age and can infect animals, including birds, pigs, horses, dogs, and marine mammals. Wild birds and domestic poultry are the natural reservoirs for all influenza A subtypes (H1 to H16), although humans are also often infected by subtypes H1 to H3 (CDC, 2013). Influenza subtypes that occur most often in birds are called avian influenza strains.
Every year, circulating influenza A strains mutate or change. Most strain mutations are relatively minor and are called antigenic drift, meaning that characteristics of the new strain have changed or drifted slightly from the original. Occasionally, however, influenza strains will mutate significantly, resulting in an antigenic shift, meaning that the new strain is significantly different from the original strain. These shifts may mean that humans are now susceptible to avian influenza or that the route of transmission may change, making human-to-human spread easier.
Nurses compose the largest segment of healthcare providers, and are poised to be at the forefront in managing care for patients with avian influenza. In addition, physicians, counselors, respiratory therapists, and other healthcare professionals will be needed to help identify, treat, isolate, and manage patients with avian influenza. It is essential that all healthcare professionals become familiar with the epidemiology, threat, clinical description, infection prevention, and patient management of avian influenza. This information will aid healthcare professionals in rapidly recognizing and responding to outbreaks of avian influenza, which will decrease morbidity, mortality, and costs of the virus.
The purpose of this course is to provide nurses and other healthcare providers with information on the emerging threat, epidemiology, and clinical description of avian influenza. The overall objective of this course is to increase the learner’s knowledge of avian influenza and the response steps they can take to decrease the spread of disease during an avian influenza pandemic.
- Discuss the background and epidemiology of avian (H5N1) influenza A.
- Describe the clinical features of avian (H5N1) influenza A.
- Describe infection prevention and control strategies.
- Discuss CDC guidelines for managing patients with avian (H5N1) influenza A.
- Identify factors to consider in the treatment of individuals exposed to the avian (H5N1) influenza A virus.
Terri Rebmann, PhD, RN, CIC, is Associate Director for Curricular Affairs at the Institute for Biosecurity in the Saint Louis University School of Public Health. She has been with the Institute since its inception in July 2000. She is a PhD nurse researcher with a background in infectious disease emergency preparedness. In addition, she is board certified in infection control and epidemiology. Her work experience includes research and clinical practice with HIV/AIDS patients and hospital infection control. In her current position with the Institute for Biosecurity, she is responsible for the Master’s in Biosecurity and Disaster Preparedness Program, including curriculum development, program management, and student advising. Her research areas of focus include health care and public health professional disaster preparedness and surge capacity issues.
- Contact hours will be awarded for up to one (1) year from the date the course is ordered, unless otherwise indicated with an expiration date.
- You must score 75% or higher on the final exam and complete the course evaluation to pass this course and receive a certificate of completion.
- Through our review processes, Western Schools ensures that this course content is presented in a balanced, unbiased manner and is free from commercial influence. It is Western Schools’ policy not to accept commercial support.
- All persons involved in the planning and development of this course have disclosed no relevant financial relationships or other conflicts of interest related to the course content.