Remember the pandemic influenza plans that you developed (or were advised to develop) a few years ago when the World Health Organization feared an outbreak of virulent bird flu? It's time to review them and bring them up to date for a possible pandemic outbreak of swine flu.

Over the weekend, the U.S. Department of Homeland Security and the Centers for Disease Control issued a public health emergency pertaining to the outbreak and spread of swine flu. Swine flu is prevalent in Mexico and has spread to several U.S. states as well as other countries around the world. Mexico has reported a significant number of deaths; thus far the cases in the U.S. have been milder. However, the CDC notes that the virulence and extent of the ultimate infection in the U.S. is unknown at this time, and that the possibility of deaths from the swine flu in the U.S. cannot be ruled out. The World Health Organization is considering whether to raise the worldwide pandemic alert level to 4, which would trigger implementation of pandemic influenza strategies at all levels of government.

Long-term care facilities, particularly those in communities where cases of the swine flu have been identified, will need to protect their residents. A severe outbreak of a virulent form of the swine flu will disrupt normal operations in many ways. There is no time like the present to be sure that your facility will be as prepared as possible to meet the threat.