Nursing Prof Helps Red Cross Educate Public About H1N1

COLUMBUS, Ga. — A Columbus State University nursing professor has been tapped by the American Red Cross as a “subject-matter expert” to lead its educational response to the growing threat of H1N1 flu across the U.S.

For Carlie Frederick, assistant professor of nursing at CSU since 2005, that means she’s on call to answer volunteer nurses’ questions about how to educate the public about the virus that first entered public consciousness as “swine flu.”

“That is a blessing for us, to know we’ve got a lot of nurses out there that we can work with,” said Mitzi Oxford, a Columbus-based Red Cross spokeswoman. “At least part of that is because Carlie’s the kind of person you want to work with. She’s very inspiring.”

Frederick, right, said she believes she was given the designation of “subject-matter expert” because of her work in building and training a network of nurses who have received training to double as educators about specific health issues. In 2004, she began developing a “cadre of nurses” to provide education about an outbreak of avian flu, better known as “bird flu.” Many of those same RNs agreed to immerse themselves in the latest H1N1 research and protocols from experts at the Centers for Disease Control, the World Health Organization and elsewhere.

“We currently have over 100 nurses on our roll and 75 student nurses,” said Frederick, who also teaches CSU student nurses about disaster preparedness. “In times of disaster, I know Columbus-area nurses will respond and our Red Cross-trained nurses will be leading the way.”

The state Health Department warns that H1N1 may become more widespread in Georgia during the fall and winter, but the threat to human life isn’t worsening. Frederick believes health care practitioners can’t become complacent about the virus that the CDC reports has resulted in more than 500 deaths this year.

Many symptoms of the flu strain formally known as novel H1N1 are identical to those of the most-common Type A influenza: fever of 100 degrees or higher, coughing, sneezing, sore throat, runny/stopped up nose, body aches and fatigue. The CDC reports that diarrhea and vomiting are more common with H1N1 flu than seasonal flu strains, but many of those infected with H1N1 never have those symptoms.

Frederick warns that H1N1 can be particularly devastating when a patient is already suffering from an existing illness. If the patient is being cared for at home, it’s important for caregivers to follow some of the same precautions exercised by health care professionals. First and foremost among the advice Frederick offers is using soap and water or an alcohol-based sanitizer to clean hands and keep surfaces free of germs that spread the virus. She also encourages sneezing and coughing into your elbow rather than into your hands if no tissues are available.

More in-depth information on precautions is available at Web sites such as http://www.flu.gov, managed by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, and those linked to the CDC’s http://www.cdc.gov/h1n1flu/.

Frederick encourages getting a flu vaccine once they become available. Although an H1N1-specific vaccine will be available later, the traditional flu vaccine also offers some protection from the virus, she says.

Like other health care professionals following the spread of H1N1, Frederick was concerned that the beginning of the school year would bring an uptick in reports of the virus, and that’s apparently been the case. For now, though, she’s been able to answer most of the questions posted by her nationwide network of nurses by phone and e-mail.

“The really wonderful thing is we have a wonderful Red Cross nursing neighborhood,” she said.

Oxford, whose West Central Georgia chapter of the Red Cross serves eight counties, says Frederick deserves credit for helping to organize and train that network of nurses.

“They went from a handful of nurses to 100-plus because of her,” she said. “She’s one of a kind.”