Reflecting on the Spanish Flu of 1918

Premier Pulse     April 2018

This year marks the 100th anniversary of the great influenza pandemic of 1918 –also known as the Spanish flu. It has been estimated that between 50 million and 100 million people died as a result of this epidemic. The infection prevention teams across Premier Health thought this year would provide the perfect opportunity to remind our health care teams of the significance of these events and the important role we all play in patient safety and public health.

The deaths caused by the Spanish flu represented up to 5 percent of the world’s population – more than half a billion people were infected. This flu was remarkable in that it cut short the lives of otherwise healthy young adults, as opposed to children and the elderly, who usually suffer most. Some have called it the greatest pandemic in history.

The Premier Health infection prevention teams plan to display several banners throughout our hospitals this year highlighting several key interventions that promote improved practices for us as a hospital community. The topics you will see include: handwashing, antibiotic safety, immunizations, and prevention of health care associated infections. We seek to deliver meaningful messages on each of these topics and invite our physicians, staff, and visitors to participate in sharing the awareness and join in our passion.

The 1918 flu pandemic has been a regular subject of conversation within the epidemiology and public health communities. Given decades of medical advancements, we are optimistic that we will never experience the number of catastrophic deaths that were seen 100 years ago.

Through this campaign, we plan to emphasize the following four points:

It is vitally important that, as health care workers, we remain vigilant about washing our hands every time we enter and exit our patients’ rooms.

It is equally important that we exercise good practices when prescribing antibiotics, and that we demonstrate good stewardship – reserving antibiotics for use only when needed.

It is important to understand the importance of vaccine-preventable diseases and the role we play in encouraging their use.

We must make every effort to keep our patients safe by preventing health care-associated infections. Ensuring that these efforts work synergistically advances Premier Health’s mission of helping to build healthier communities.

Back to the April 2018 issue of Premier Pulse

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