Community / International

When crisis calls, count on Passport Health

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Whether the health crisis is a national one that can be anticipated and planned for or one caused by an unforeseen and devastating natural disaster, teams at the University of Rochester School of Nursing proved once again this year that they are ready and able to respond.

As worries about the novel H1N1 flu began to grow in 2009, the team at the School’s flu immunization program began to prepare. In addition to running their annual seasonal flu vaccination program, they knew they would need to play a key role in offering protection from this unfamiliar strain.

Working with the health departments in both Monroe and Onondaga counties, the flu immunization program team of nurses and administrators hosted tens of clinics in Rochester, Canandaigua and Syracuse.

“We have a long-standing commitment to protecting residents of upstate and western New York when it comes to the flu,” said Bill Russell, RN, MS, director of the School’s Flu Immunization Program and Passport Health of Upstate New York. “This year was no different, except that we faced the challenge of seasonal vaccine shortages as manufacturers dedicated more production lines to the H1N1 vaccine.”

In spite of that, the School’s program administered more than 20,000 doses of the seasonal vaccine. The coordination and planning that led to those numbers served Russell and his team well as they rolled right into H1N1 clinics in the community and at the University of Rochester Medical Center.

“It was a seamless transition for us because it’s what we do,” Russell said. “When asked by the counties to assist there was no question that we would. Our focus is community health and wellness.”

Through January 2010, 21,500 doses of H1N1 vaccine were administered.

While foresight and preparation were critical to the flu immunization team meeting vaccination needs throughout the region, there was no way to anticipate what happened in Haiti on Jan. 12.

Immediately following the earthquake that devastated the small island nation, local emergency responders and aid workers went into high gear, as did the School’s Passport Health office.

The six highly trained professionals who specialize in travel medicine in Rochester and Syracuse began to field calls from doctors, nurses, EMTs and others who needed to get to Haiti as quickly as possible. They responded by providing same-day service with vaccine immunizations and up-to date medical information on the region. The group worked extended hours to service the increasing number of travelers trying to get on emergency flights. To date, they have consulted with more than 100 Haiti-bound individuals.

“Our goal was to make sure that the health care providers and rescue workers who were giving their time to serve in a crisis were able to stay healthy and productive to save lives and answer the need,” said Russell. “People came into our offices expecting to get a couple of shots and a prescription—but they walked out with a very comprehensive understanding of their risk, and most left feeling as though they had gotten more out of the appointment than they ever expected.”

“We have a long-standing commitment to protecting residents of upstate and western New York.”—Bill Russell

To accomplish that, the staff at Passport Health made sure they had the most up-to-date information to share with travelers. They normally pull data from up to 80 resources every 24 hours. But following the Haitian earthquake, they were getting information hourly. “We receive overall safety and security updates as well as disease-risk profiles and known outbreaks from a variety of places such as the World Health Organization, the Centers for Disease Control and reports direct from on-the-ground physicians,” Russell said.

This is not the first time that Passport Health has aided travelers needing to leave immediately in response to a natural disaster. “We’ve been called to do this a number of times, including after the tsunami in Thailand and the earthquake in southern China,” said Russell.

In addition to the support provided by Passport Health staff, the School helped the initial relief effort by donating personal protective equipment such as insect repellents and travel health supplies to aid the first responders at highest risk of food-, water- and insect-borne diseases.

Related Information

For more information on Passport Health or to schedule an appointment, visit the website.

Multimedia in this Issue:

The accelerated program continues to flourish

apnn slideshow

View a slideshow of the January APNN cohort starting their journey

Miner Library - then and now

miner narrated slideshow

View and listen to a narrated slideshow about the Miner Library.

Reunion 2009

reunion slideshow

View a slideshow of the event.