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Lessons from the Front Lines: The Prehospital Experience of the 2009 Novel H1N1 Outbreak in Victoria, Australia

  • Erin C. Smith, Frederick M. Burkle, Paul F. Holman, Justin M. Dunlop and Frank L. Archer...


The H1N1 (swine influenza) 2009 outbreak in Victoria, Australia, provided a unique opportunity to review the prehospital response to a public health emergency. As part of Ambulance Victoria’s response to the outbreak, relevant emergency response plans and pandemic plans were instigated, focused efforts were aimed at encouraging the use of personal protective equipment (PPE), and additional questions were included in the call-taking script for telephone triage of emergency calls to identify potential cases of H1N1 from the point of call. As a result, paramedics were alerted to all potential cases of H1N1 influenza or any patient who met the current case definition before their arrival on the scene and were advised to use appropriate PPE. During the period of May 1 to July 2, Ambulance Victoria telephone triaged 1598 calls relating to H1N1 (1228 in metropolitan areas and 243 in rural areas) and managed 127 calls via a referral service that provides specific telephone triage for potential H1N1 influenza cases based on the national call-taking script. The referral service determines whether a patient requires an emergency ambulance or can be diverted to other resources such as flu clinics. Key lessons learned during the H1N1 outbreak include a focused need for continued education and communication regarding infection control and the appropriate use of PPE. Current guidelines regarding PPE use are adequate for use during an outbreak of infectious disease. Compliance with PPE needs to be addressed through the use of intra-agency communications and regular information updates early in the progress of the outbreak. (Disaster Med Public Health Preparedness. 2009;3(Suppl 2):S154–S159)


Corresponding author

Address correspondence and reprint requests to Erin Smith, Monash University, Department of Community Emergency Health and Paramedic Practice, Alfred Hospital, Lower Ground Floor, Medical School Building, Prahran, Victoria 3181, Australia(e-mail:


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Lessons from the Front Lines: The Prehospital Experience of the 2009 Novel H1N1 Outbreak in Victoria, Australia

  • Erin C. Smith, Frederick M. Burkle, Paul F. Holman, Justin M. Dunlop and Frank L. Archer...


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