care workers and emergency services personnel who could have direct
contact with individuals who are ill during an influenza pandemic
should be protected with antiviral drugs throughout the pandemic, even
before these workers are exposed or become ill themselves, according to
guidance released today by the U.S. Department of Health and Human
Stockpiling these antiviral drugs and planning for
their use is the responsibility of employers as part of comprehensive
pandemic preparedness, the guidance said.
The guidance also
recommends preventive antiviral drug use for certain individuals
following exposure to someone who is sick with pandemic influenza.
These individuals include people with weakened immune systems, as well
as for health care and emergency services workers such as law
enforcement, firefighters, and emergency services personnel who do not
routinely come in contact with ill people, and for residents in nursing
homes, prisons, and other group residential settings if an outbreak of
pandemic illness occurs in the facility.
HHS continues to
recommend using antiviral drugs to treat people with pandemic influenza
illness as a way to slow the spread of pandemic disease. National and
state antiviral drug stockpiles, intended primarily for these uses,
contain enough antiviral drugs for more than 72 million people.
placing responsibility on employers, the new antiviral drug guidance
highlights the importance of preparedness within both the public and
“Planning and preparing for a pandemic
influenza requires action by every part of society, including
individuals and families, communities, and private sector employers as
well as all levels of government,” said Dr. Craig Vanderwagen, HHS
assistant secretary for preparedness and response, a rear admiral in
the U.S. Public Health Service. “Employers will play a key role in
protecting employees’ health and safety, which in turn reduces the
impact of a pandemic on the nation’s health, the economy and society.”
a related document, HHS provided recommendations for employers to
consider broadly, suggesting that antiviral drugs may be part of a
comprehensive pandemic preparedness plan and describing how an
antiviral drug strategy could be implemented.
have a plan in place for responding immediately at the first sign a
pandemic to be sure the business can protect the health of the
workforce and continue to operate,” Vanderwagen said. “Employers may
want to consider stockpiling antiviral drugs as one part of that plan.”
antiviral drugs may provide an additional layer of protection during a
pandemic, along with advising sick employees to stay home and promoting
changes in behaviors and work practices to reduce close contact between
people and to improve hygiene, such as hand washing.
guidance recommends that employers have a clear understanding of the
legal, regulatory, ethical, logistical, medical and economic issues
involved in ordering, storing, securing, and dispensing prescription
medications. The guidance also urges employers to work with their
health providers or health services, and state and local health
departments, to plan any stockpiling of antiviral drugs.
officials developed the new guidance with major input from state,
local, territorial, and tribal public health experts. Proposed guidance
was shared broadly with health care and emergency services
organizations, and other businesses, and further input was received
during a public comment period; antiviral drug manufacturers were not
involved in the development of the new guidance.
The guidance is
not intended as a mandate, but provides recommendations for a prudent
approach to planning for and responding to an influenza pandemic.
Today’s guidance and accompanying considerations for employers replaces
the previous antiviral drug use recommendations that are included in
the 2005 HHS Pandemic Influenza Preparedness and Response Plan.
For a copy of the guidance, visit www.pandemicflu.gov.
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Tuesday, December 16, 2008
Contact: HHS Press Office