Influenza A(H1N1)pdm09 and flu response centres: Characteristics of flu response centre staff in the West Midlands
Objective: To assess the operational experience and knowledge of staff who worked in the West Midlands Flu Response Centre (FRC) during the 'containment' phase of influenza A(H1N1)pdm09. Study design: Evaluation study. Methods: Cross-sectional survey of staff who worked in the West Midlands FRC between 18 May 2009 and 10 July 2009 using an online self-administered questionnaire. The questionnaire included sections related to the respondents' FRC experience, knowledge about influenza A(H1N1)pdm09 and the containment phase. Results: This study had a 51% (89/176) response rate. Of the respondents, 59% were female, 64% were of White ethnicity, 55% were clinicians, 46% were aged 25-44 years, and 67% had no previous call centre experience. A significant proportion (P < 0.001) of respondents believed that the FRC had made a positive contribution to the public health management of the containment phase. Nearly all respondents indicated that they were familiar with the terms 'pandemic flu' or 'influenza pandemic' (99%), understood the aim of the containment phase (90%), and knew the severity of the illness caused by the virus (97%). However, specific knowledge was lacking regarding a number of public health interventions, and overall knowledge scores for clinicians and non-clinicians were similar. Conclusion: This study is the first to report on the characteristics of FRC staff during the containment phase of influenza A(H1N1)pdm09 pandemic. Although overall, staff evaluation of the West Midlands FRC was very positive, a number of knowledge gaps were identified. This study provides valuable insights which can contribute to preparedness planning. © 2012 The Royal Society for Public Health.