Prince Edward Island Pandemic Contingency Plan for the Health Sector
The Province has the overall responsibility to ensure that each division of the health system has an operational plan that will result in an integrated and coordinated health sector response to a pandemic in PEI.
Planning for a Pandemic
The four components of emergency management are mitigation, preparedness, response and recovery. These components are described within the context of the health system in a disease pandemic.
Protecting the Health of the Public
The Pandemic Contingency Plan has identified key component areas of the health sector that are essential in a pandemic response:
The ability to identify a new virus and track its activity in the population is critical to the success of a pandemic response. Early identification of a virus increases the lead time for the development of a vaccine, identification of effective antiviral medications, and the implementation of prevention and control strategies.
Laboratory-based surveillance is an integral part of monitoring disease activity. Because the signs and symptoms of novel respiratory viruses are similar to those caused by common respiratory pathogens like influenza and respiratory sync, laboratory testing must be conducted to diagnose a virus definitively.
Public Health Measures
Public health measures are non-medical interventions used to reduce or slow the spread of the pandemic virus.
Most of the time, vaccination provides significant immunity against influenza and it is widely accepted that a vaccine is the first line of defence against a pandemic virus.
Novel viruses for which there is no current established vaccine production process (such as the case with novel coronaviruses) will likely require more time until vaccine production since there is much to learn during the pandemic about the novel virus and they type of vaccine needed to prevent infections.
Antiviral Medication in a Pandemic
Because vaccines are not expected to be available early in a pandemic, antiviral medications are considered the next best pharmacological intervention in the control and treatment of viral symptoms. Antivirals work by reducing the ability of the virus to reproduce in the body and therefore decreasing severity and duration of illness. Antivirals do not provide immunity against the virus, and not all viruses are susceptible to antivirals.
Infection Prevention and Control and Occupational Health
Strict adherence to hand washing/hand antisepsis is the cornerstone of infection prevention and control. Proper hand hygiene may be the most effective control measure available during a pandemic.
Protection of Health Care Workers
Education and training will be critical to the protection of health care workers. PEI’s health sector will implement the following three actions to reduce the risk of workers acquiring the pandemic virus in the workplace:
- Ensure all workers have the education and training they need to protect themselves while providing effective care.
- Institute and monitor appropriate occupational health and infection prevention and control measures.
- Provide appropriate personal protective equipment as recommended by the Public Health Agency of Canada.
Clinical Care Guidelines
Clinical care involves the assessment and treatment of persons with suspected or confirmed pandemic illness.
Mass Fatality Planning
In a pandemic, the number of deaths in a 6- to 8-week wave is estimated to be similar to that which typically occurs over 6 months in a non-pandemic period. As in the health care system, demands on funeral industry services will increase at the same time as their workforce is reduced due to illness or caregiving responsibilities. A mass fatality plan for a pandemic will be established to deal with the predicted increase in deaths.
Communication of information and advice is often the first and most important public health intervention during an emergency. This is especially true during a pandemic, where behaviour change is a central part of risk management.
Research plays a key role in addressing knowledge gaps about the pandemic virus and effective illness prevention, treatment and control.