What is a Flu Center?

PDF version formatted for print: What is a Flu Center (PDF: 32KB/1 page)

Updated 9/14/09


During a severe pandemic, the healthcare system will be overwhelmed with a surge of patients. Initially hospitals and clinics will utilize continuity of business operations plans to increase surge capacity. However, when the surge has exceeded the capacity of their current business model, a flu center can be activated.

Flu centers serve as a safety valve for our communities by:

  • Providing a community resource for the assessment, referral and treatment of people with influenza-like illness, and
  • Managing the surge in an overwhelmed healthcare system to allow the acute care facilities to care for the more critically ill people with influenza-like illness and people with life-threatening illnesses or injuries.

A Flu Center can be established in an existing clinic or hospital, a designated alternative care site or mass dispensing site, or at another location within the community. For an existing healthcare facility to be designated a flu center, the facility would adapt their services and would meet the following criteria:

  • Segregate influenza-like illness (ILI) patients from others with separate entrance and exit
  • Segregate clinical and support staff exposed to ILI patients from others
  • Utilize infection control methods
  • Plan for increased supply and equipment demands
  • Consider population/service area potential ILI based on planning assumptions found on the Minnesota Pandemic Influenza Planning Assumptions (PDF: 101KB/2 pages) page.

As a community resource, flu center plans should include serving at-risk populations as well as uninsured and underinsured people.

Mass Dispensing Site, Flu Center or Alternative Care Site?

With limited resources, healthcare and public health must decide how to best serve the needs of their communities. In the case of pandemic influenza, the decision to open a Mass Dispensing Site versus an Alternative Care Site versus a Flu Center will be dependent upon the current community picture.

  • If influenza vaccinations are available and local public health are planning to target large numbers of people, then a Mass Dispensing Site may be the best choice.
  • If influenza-like illness is causing a significant increase in out-patient cases and the volume load has exceeded the surge capacity of clinics and hospital emergency departments, then a Flu Center could be the best community resource.
  • If influenza-like illness is causing severe medical problems requiring a significant increase in hospitalizations, hospitals can initially increase their in-patient surge capacity and draw on the resources of hospitals within their compact.  However, once this regional hospital in-patient surge capacity has been exceeded, then an Alternative Care Site could be the resource to deploy.

If more than one of the above situations is present, public health and healthcare will need to decide how to best deploy their limited resources, based on community needs and resources.  More than one type of site may be opened and/or the functions of the three different sites could be combined into one community resource.



Updated Monday, November 22, 2010 at 09:07AM