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Swine flu: Concern for the SMI population

April 28, 2009
by Doug Edwards
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As with any disease outbreak, vulnerable populations often are most at-risk and need immediate attention, and that includes people with serious mental illness (SMI), points out Kathleen R. Delaney, PhD, RN, PMH-NP, a professor of nursing at Rush College of Nursing and president of the International Society of Psychiatric-Mental Health Nurses. Yesterday I asked Dr. Delaney to share her thoughts on the developing swine flu situation and what it means for the behavioral healthcare community. She advises careful watching for flu symptoms in the SMI population:

“I guess my mind goes to persons with serious and persistent mental illness and their issues with poor physical health. I would hope that clinicians, particularly rural clinicians, have the time to parse out what is flu and what is manifestation of any number of co-morbid physical problems. Another issue is that persons with serious and persistent mental illness may not contact their health care provider with the first symptoms. Finally, we do not seem to know exactly who are the vulnerable populations in the Swine Flu outbreak. It may not be traditional clusters—young and elderly (they may be the ones most likely to have some flu immunization on board). So for a variety of reasons, we need to be alert for the appearance of symptoms with individuals within the SMI population.”

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In this particular case, it could be that people with serious mental illness have something of a safety net if they are engaged in services, that is. Behavioral health providers have infection control programs, track illnesses, and provide education and health alerts to staff and consumers. While I am sometimes (OK, often) irritated by the infection control nurses who keep reminding me of things that I should or should not be doing, I surely do appreciate all their hard work and efforts. Kudos to the RN's. It's Nurse Appreciation Week!

Doug Edwards

Vice President and Managing Director

Doug Edwards

http://www.behavioral.net

Doug Edwards is Vice President and Managing Director of Vendome Healthcare Media’s Mental Health...