Methodist watching H1N1 flu

DeWayne Bartels

The fear of Swine Flu may have subsided somewhat in Peoria, but preparations for it have not.

That is the assessment of Tom Stecher, transfer services manager, and Terry Schadt, safety officer for Methodist Medical Center.

As of June 5, Illinois was in the top three states reporting Swine Flu with 1,357 cases reported, one of which was confirmed in Peoria County.

In an advisory the Centers for Disease Control said the virus is sparking a growing outbreak of illness in the United States, and an increasing number internationally.

“It’s uncertain at this time how severe this novel (flu) outbreak will be in terms of illness and death compared with other influenza viruses. Because this is a new virus, most people will not have immunity to it, and illness may be more severe and widespread as a result,” the CDC said.

“In addition, currently there is no vaccine to protect against this novel H1N1 virus. CDC anticipates that there will be more cases, more hospitalizations and more deaths associated with this new virus in the coming days and weeks.”

It is precisely because this form of flu is so new that Methodist officials said they are remaining wary and prepared.

“We’ve done everything that can be done,” Stecher said.

The hospital is following emergency plans set up three years ago.

“We have looked at our inventory of masks, respirators, gowns and the like,” Schadt said.

“We feel we have enough. We have ramped up.”

Schadt said they have even attempted to guess what kinds of numbers they will have to deal with if the flu turns deadlier this fall and winter. Schadt said like other medical professionals, they plan to monitor closely how the flu reacts in the Southern Hemisphere, where it is now fall.

Schadt said, those at Methodist involved with planning for a pandemic response are meeting twice a week internally to go over plans.

“It’s an on-going thing. We’re prepared at a moment’s notice,” Stecher said. 

“We plan for the worst,” Schadt added.

Schadt said all medical personnel are on heightened alert for symptoms among patients and each other.

“It’s unpredictable, this flu,” Stecher said.

He said if the flu becomes more aggressive in the Southern Hemisphere, the hospital is prepared to re-evaluate their plans.

“We’re going to be on a heightened alert until we see this is not needed,” Schadt said.

“Peoria is prepared. Illinois is prepared.”

Stecher said the city, the health department and the hospitals are all working together.

“It’s been a well-coordinated collaborative effort on all sides,” Stecher said.

“The flow of information between all of us has been phenomenal.”