A team of American researchers have found that non-pharmaceutical interventions (NPIs) may be effective in preventing the spread of pandemic flu in nursing homes.
Using mathematical models, the scientists compared the appropriateness of a range of interventions in a number of different scenarios.
“Our work is the first to provide a flexible road map for prevention and protection of vulnerable populations living in residential care facilities,” said Gerardo Chowell-Puente, from Arizona State University’s School of Human Evolution and Social Change.
“We found that something previously considered implausible – the protection of a health care institution against pandemic influenza by using only non-pharmaceutical measures – may be possible and may be practical,” said Chowell-Puente.
The researchers found that conventional NPIs such as masks and isolation are only effective in mild outbreaks.
In severe cases, more extreme measures, like the use of electronic communications devices to prevent physical contact are required, according to the paper in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.
However, these severe measures would cause significant interruptions to a residential care facility.
The biggest surprise for the team of researchers was the critical role played by employees in controlling the spread.
It also recommended that current workloads be improved and that staff be given more regular work hours.
“We want this work to get those concerned with mitigating the impact of pandemic influenza in such facilities to evaluate and consider implementation of the recommendations implicit in our study,” said Chowell-Puente.