It is predicted that sometime in the near future, Ontario will face an influenza pandemic – a global epidemic caused by a strain of influenza virus that spreads rapidly and causes extremely high rates of illness and death.
While each century has seen an average of three pandemics occurring at intervals ranging from ten to fifty years, no one can predict exactly when the next pandemic will take place.
The World Health Organization (WHO) will declare a pandemic when human-to-human transmission of a novel influenza virus is confirmed and sustained, and outbreaks occur in several different countries (see WHO Pandemic Phases below). The first wave, lasting six to eight weeks, will be followed by a second, possibly more severe wave three to nine months later and possibly a third wave. A return to the typical wintertime epidemic cycle may take two to three years.
The Niagara Health Pandemic Plan sets out an organization wide approach for pandemic response activities. The incident management system (IMS) model for emergency planning was adopted as the framework for documenting plans and is a model supported and adopted by the Ontario Hospital Association and various emergency management officials. Various hospital plans and guidelines were also reviewed in order to determine and adopt, where available, identified current standards and best practices as applicable. The plan ensures corporate wide coordination, control and response however also maintains site based plans at a local level. The organization-wide pandemic plan consists of a wide range of hospital and community components, such as prioritizing access to inpatient beds, ensuring antibiotics and antiviral drugs are readily available, contingency plans for essential services, providing information to hospital and community stakeholders, and ongoing liaison with local, regional and provincial emergency operations centres.
The Niagara Health Pandemic Plan builds upon the relationships that have been fostered between Niagara Health and its community partners, most specifically the Niagara Region Public Health Department. The development of an influenza pandemic response plan for Niagara is the result of a tremendous amount of communication, collaboration, integration and partnership with key agencies, and Niagara Health has been able to build upon these relationships in order to develop a response plan that is coordinated and integrated.
The Niagara Health Pandemic Influenza Plan is a living document, which will continue to be updated as new information becomes available. It will require modification as new information from various sources (provincial, federal, regional) evolves. It is based upon and reflects what was known at the time of drafting.