H1-N1 Flu Update for Dentists

Though the swine flu threat has put the whole world on high alert, it seems it may not be the devastating pandemic authorities had feared. Still, it’s important for health professionals to stay abreast of the situation, and reviewing infection control standards is never a bad thing.

Here’s where you can find the latest H1-N1 flu information as it relates to dentists and dental practices:

The most relevant information is in the CDC document Prevention of Swine Flu in the Dental Healthcare Setting. It’s pretty much Infection Control 101: things you should already know but that are always good to review. In short, be extra-careful with patients who might be ill.

Here are some highlights from the document:

Infection control issues during patient assessment:

  • “Patients with an acute respiratory illness should be identified at check-in and placed in a single-patient room with the door kept closed.
  • “Offer a disposable surgical mask to persons who are coughing, or provide tissues and no-touch receptacles for used tissue disposal.
  • “The ill person should wear a surgical mask when outside the patient room.
  • “Dental healthcare personnel assessing a patient with influenza-like illness should wear disposable surgical facemask, non-sterile gloves, gown, and eye protection (e.g., goggles) to prevent direct skin and conjunctival exposure.
  • “Patient and dental healthcare workers should perform hand hygiene (e.g., hand washing with non-antimicrobial soap and water, alcohol-based hand rub, or antiseptic handwash) after having contact with respiratory secretions and contaminated objects/materials.
  • “Routine cleaning and disinfection strategies used during influenza seasons can be applied to the environmental management of swine influenza.”

What if you’re concerned a patient may have swine flu?

“If the dentist suspects the illness could be due to swine influenza (symptoms include fever, body aches, runny nose, sore throat, nausea, or vomiting or diarrhea), elective dental treatment should be deferred and the patient should be advised to contact their general health care provider.”

What about staff members who may be ill?

  • “Staff experiencing influenza-like-illness (ILI) (fever with either cough or sore throat, muscle aches) should not report to work.
  • “Staff who experience ILI and wish to seek medical care should contact their health care providers to report illness (by telephone or other remote means) before seeking care at a clinic, physician’s office, or hospital.
  • “Staff who were not using appropriate personal protective equipment during close contact with a confirmed, probable, or suspect case of swine influenza A (H1N1) virus infection during the case’s infectious period should receive chemoprophylaxis according to CDC guidance.”



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