Influenza can be introduced in correctional institutions like prisons, rehabilitation centers or in long term care facilities by newly admitted prisoners, civilians or even by health care providers. An outbreak of influenza in such institutions can lead to severe and fatal illnesses. Confirmed or suspected cases of influenza in prisons are therefore taken with a lot of seriousness, control and prevention measures are initiated immediately.
Prevention of influenza virus in prison requires a multi – faceted approach that includes vaccination, surveillance, testing, infection control, and treatment and anti viral chemoprophylaxis.
Vaccination – this should be provided routinely to inmates, civilians and caregivers working in correctional facilities like prisons. There should be annual vaccination exercise in prisons usually before the influenza season or whenever there is an outbreak. Newly admitted inmates and prison care providers require to be vaccinated. Whenever there is an outbreak of influenza, public health nurses usually establish temporary clinics within the prison in bid to identify cases and offer vaccination and treatment.
Surveillance – public health nurses participate in activities aimed at surveillance to help identify and act in time. Inmates, residents, staff, visitors and health workers should all be put under active surveillance incase of confirmed or suspected cases,
Testing – whenever any new inmate or resident presents with signs and symptoms suspected to be influenza, it is important to carry out laboratory tests. Testing on respiratory specimen e.g. Nasal swabs, nasopharyngeal swabs, throat swabs or nasal aspirates from all people who develop respiratory illnesses within 72 hours should help to confirm the diagnosis of influenza.
Infection Control – Public health nurse should help to implement standard and droplet precautions among all people confirmed or suspected to be having influenza. Standard precaution includes wearing protective clothing e.g. masks, gloves, caps etc. to avoid contact with secretions and contaminated surfaces. Hand hygiene and covering self when coughing or sneezing reduces the chances of spreading the virus.
Treatment and chemoprophylaxis – The public health nurse helps to administer influenza antiviral treatment and chemoprophylaxis to inmates, residents and other healthcare personnel. Some commonly used drugs for treatment and prophylaxis include: - oseltaminivir and zanamivir.
Managing influenza pandemic helps to reduce the transmission of the virus strain and to reduce cases of hospitalization and deaths. This also helps in maintaining of important services and to trim down the social and economic impact of the pandemic.
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Spaulding AC, M. V. (2009;). How public health and prisons can partner for pandemic influenza preparedness. Georgia.: J Correct Health Care.