H1N1 Update from UK Intensive Care

H1N1 Update 16 December 2010 sent from the UK Intensive Care Society

As many of you will already be aware, the predicted second wave of swine flu seems to becoming a reality. The HPA have received information that there has been a rise in the number of confirmed H1N1 cases and has restarted regular teleconferences to discuss the current situation and to disseminate the latest advice and information. The initial teleconference was held last Friday and the first question asked was how many cases have units seen. Although the total numbers were not high, the fact that there are confirmed cases throughout the UK gave support to the decision that hospitals should prepare for an increase in the numbers.

Subsequent updates have confirmed that the case numbers are rising and although not all patients admitted to ICUs with a suspected diagnosis of H1N1 have required mechanical ventilation or had H1N1 confirmed. As of Wednesday this week the numbers of H1N1 related ICU cases had risen to 140.  An additional concern is that the number of cases with probable H1N1 referred for ECMO is now 13 and this has resulted in a policy that there should be support for all the centers in the UK who can provide ECMO.

It is still too early to predict what the level escalation is going to be required, but there are real concerns that the combination of adverse weather conditions, the current financial restrictions in the NHS, and an H1N1 peak could place ICUs in a more seriously challenging situation than occurred in the previous outbreak.

For this reason, it is recommended that clinicians should once again have a low threshold for considering the possibility of H1N1 in patients who are referred to intensive care. Trusts should reconvene regular meetings to plan for any necessary expansion of critical care services. It is important that staff have up to date training in the use of personal protection equipment.  One of the most important points learned from the first outbreak was that early antiviral therapy can reduce the need for mechanical ventilation and it is recommended that any patients admitted to hospital with a history and symptoms suggestive of an influenza-like illness should be given antiviral therapy.

The following points were made in the HPA–led teleconference on 10 December:

  • be vigilant: have a low threshold for considering the diagnosis.
  • start antivirals whenever there is a suspicion of flu (oseltamivir 75or 150 mg bd po).
  • In patients with resistance or not tolerating NG medication, there is an IV preparation which is currently undergoing clinical trial. GSK produces it (zanamavir) and may provide it on patient-name compassionate grounds.
  • Use ARDSnet ventilation especially for those with normal lung compliance.
  • Consider HFO for those with poor compliance
  • Fluid restrict patients
  • Consider referral for ECMO early if conventional ventilation is failing. ECMO beds are occupied almost all occupied by ‘flu patients and elective surgery has been curtailed to accomodate them. Surge funding has been agreed for extra ECMO. In cases where conventional ventilation is failing and there are no other options, patients should be referred to Glenfield before seven days of MV.
  • HPA adviced has not changed with respect to infection control measures; these can be found here:http://www.dh.gov.uk/prod_consum_dh/groups/dh_digitalassets/@dh/@en/@ps/documents/digitalasset/dh_110899.pdf
  • The RCoA site still has an adult practice note from last year which will be updated
  • The HPA link to seasonal flu can be found here:http://www.hpa.org.uk/Topics/InfectiousDiseases/InfectionsAZ/SeasonalInfluenza/Guidelines/
  • There will be advice re pregnant women after discussion with the RCOG
  • In some cases, URT specimens may be negative in severe cases and LRT samples may be needed for the diagnosis.
  • Point of care testing may have inadequate  sensitivity for this strain of H1N1

The current rate is 21.5/100,000.

We aim to provide updates on the ICS website and copy of this document is available to download via http://www.ics.ac.uk/ under ‘Latest News – H1N1 Latest News’.
Update by the Executive Committee of the Intensive Care Society.

Sent from the email of:

Pauline Kemp

Head of Secretariat