Over 40% of critical healthcare workers may not go to work when a pandemic hits

    Proper planning and preventive medicines are critical to ensure essential
    frontline healthcare services function during a pandemic

    TORONTO, Nov. 14 /CNW/ - Results from a national survey reveal that
almost one quarter (23 per cent) of our nation's healthcare workers would be
uncomfortable reporting to work if someone in Canada was to be diagnosed with
pandemic influenza. Even more alarming is that if people in their city were
diagnosed with the flu pandemic, 43 per cent of healthcare workers, including
nurses, pharmacists and medical technicians would be uncomfortable reporting
to work.
    However, the likelihood of reporting to work during a pandemic flu
outbreak is 90 per cent if healthcare workers know that their employers are
able to make preventive medicines available to them.
    Another critical factor which can reduce the level of discomfort about
reporting to work during a pandemic is knowing that a pandemic plan is in
place. With knowledge of such a plan, level of discomfort among healthcare
workers is reduced by more than 20 percentage points, even if the flu pandemic
was to hit their city.
    "We know that the need for health care will increase substantially during
a pandemic, and it is critical that all parts of the healthcare system
continue to function," said Dr. McGeer, microbiologist and infectious disease
consultant, department of microbiology, Mount Sinai Hospital. "Our greatest
challenge is human resources, and all of the planning in the world will be
irrelevant if our frontline healthcare workers don't show up to work. Our
plans must address the needs of all the staff that provide healthcare
services, and all of these staff must know what the plans are, and be
comfortable with what their role will be."
    The national survey, conducted by Leger Marketing and sponsored by
GlaxoSmithKline, used a combination of telephone and online interviews with
700 healthcare workers, which includes nurses; hospital support staff such as
custodial, clerical or food preparation; medical technicians such as
radiology, x-ray or laboratory; and pharmacists and pharmacy technicians. More
key findings are included at the end of the release under "Note to the

    Protection Against Flu Pandemic: Antivirals

    According to the World Health Organization (WHO) Guidelines(1):

    -   Antivirals are effective for both treatment and prophylaxis and are
        an important adjunct to vaccination as a strategy for managing
        pandemic influenza

    -   Prophylaxis is more likely to prevent serious complications from
        influenza than treatment

    -   The neuraminidase inhibitors (zanamivir and oseltamivir) are
        preferred for stockpiling

    -   Pandemic plans should address advance stockpiling, selection of
        appropriate agents, rapid distribution of drugs and monitoring of

    Current Thought Leadership on Stockpiling and Antivirals

    Since antiviral resistance contributes to the failure of therapy, it
cannot be overlooked as an important factor in planning for a pandemic. In
response to recent reports that some strains of the H5N1 virus are becoming
resistant to oseltamivir, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services
(HHS) has changed its stockpiling strategy to decrease the share of
oseltamivir from 90 to 80 per cent and increase the share of zanamivir from 10
to 20 per cent(2). In the U.K., an influential group of scientists has
recommended the government modify the national stockpile to 50 per cent
zanamivir and 50 per cent oseltamivir(3).
    "A key factor to Canadian pandemic planning and preparation is ensuring a
diversified stockpile, including adequate amounts of more than one antiviral,
which is essential to pandemic preparation in order to protect against
drug-resistant strains of pandemic flu," said Dr. McGeer.

    The Last Century Of The Flu

    History shows that influenza pandemics have occurred three to four times
per century(4). Scientists believe pandemic flu viruses develop in two key
ways. First, a new subtype can result from the mixing (or "re-assortment") of
human and avian viruses, which is what scientists believe started the last two
influenza pandemics in 1957 and 1968. Because humans had no defence against
the new strain, it spread rapidly around the globe, causing widespread illness
and higher rates of death compared to seasonal influenza. These pandemics each
resulted in more than one million deaths globally.
    Second, a new pandemic strain can develop if an avian influenza virus
changes (or mutates) into a virus that can cause human illness and spread
easily from person to person. This is likely how the "Spanish flu" killed
between 20 to 50 million people worldwide in 1918 and 1919, including about
30,000 to 50,000 in Canada.(5)

    (1) World Health Organization. Department of Communicable Disease
        Surveillance and Response, WHO Guidelines on the Use of Vaccines and
        Antivirals during Influenza Pandemics. 2004.
    (2) The Congress of the United States, Congressional Budget Office. A
        Potential Influenza Pandemic: An Update on Possible Macroeconomic
        Effects and Policy Issues. May 22, 2006; revised July 27, 2006:
    (3) The Royal Society & the Academy of Medical Sciences, Pandemic
        influenza: science to policy, November 2006.
    (4) http://www.phac-aspc.gc.ca/cpip-pclcpi/hl-ps/index.html#ip
    (5) The Canadian Pandemic Influenza Plan for the Health Sector. Public
        Health Agency of Canada, Revised November 2006.


    GlaxoSmithKline - one of the world's leading research-based
pharmaceutical and health-care companies - is committed to improving the
quality of human life by enabling people to do more, feel better and live
longer. In Canada, GlaxoSmithKline is among the top 15 investors in research
and development, contributing more than $176 million in 2006 alone. GSK is an
Imagine Caring Company, and is consistently recognized as one of the 50 Best
Employers in Canada. For company information, please visit www.gsk.ca.

    NOTE TO EDITOR - Flu Pandemic Survey, conducted by Leger Marketing

    About the Survey
    -   A 13-minute survey was conducted between August 7th and August 23rd,
    -   With a national sample of 2000 respondents, results can be considered
        accurate to within +/-2.2 per cent, 19 times out of 20. When looking
        at either business continuity or healthcare workers separately
        (n= 1300 and 700, respectively), results can be considered
        accurate to within +/-2.7 and +/-3.7 per cent respectively.
    -   Business continuity workers comprised of: utilities or city/regional
        workers such as water, electricity, gas, garbage collection, parks
        and recreation, city hall and mail delivery; transportation such as
        trucking, shipping, courier and public transit; banking;
        communication providers such as telephone, mobile, cable and IT;
        grocery and food warehousing; and medical product manufacturers
        involved with pharmaceuticals, diagnostics, warehousing and

    Key Findings
    -   Only 64 per cent of healthcare workers believe their employer has a
        pandemic plan in place.
        -  Of this group 69 per cent feel their employer's pandemic plan
           looks after their needs to stay safe in the work environment.
        -  Less than half (only 49 per cent) feel their employer's pandemic
           plan looks after the needs of their families.
    -   One quarter of healthcare workers don't think that a flu pandemic
        will likely come to Canada
    -   More than a quarter of healthcare workers are not aware that there
        are medicines that can reduce or prevent the impact of pandemic flu
    -   Only 64 per cent of healthcare workers get an annual flu shot
    -   One-third of healthcare workers surveyed note that their sense of
        responsibility would motivate them most to report to work, regardless
        of the outbreak's proximity to them. Less than a quarter of
        healthcare workers surveyed noted that helping others would motivate
        them most, but this does not hold true across all scenarios, as the
        percentage who note this as a motivator after an outbreak is found in
        their city drops significantly (14 per cent).
    -   If a flu pandemic were to hit the world and someone in Canada was
        diagnosed with it, 67 per cent of healthcare workers would be
        comfortable with shaking hands or being handed something from
        someone; however, this number significantly drops to 39 per cent as
        the outbreak hits closer to home (in the city)
        -  This means that 60 per cent of healthcare workers are not
           comfortable if people in their city were diagnosed with the flu

For further information:

For further information: or an interview in Toronto, Montreal, Calgary
or Vancouver, please contact: GlaxoSmithKline, (905) 819-3464,
peter.j.schram@gsk.com; TORONTO, Pamela Arora, (416) 586-0180,
parora@national.ca; MONTREAL, Roch Landriault, (514) 843-2345,
rlandriault@national.ca; CALGARY, Tanja Vick, (403) 531-0331 x261,
tvick@national.ca; VANCOUVER, Claire Munroe, (604) 684-6655 x237,

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