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H1N1 Outbreak Could Cause Hospital Bed Shortages

Les Masterson, for HealthLeaders Media, October 1, 2009

Fifteen states could run out of hospital beds and another 12 states could reach or exceed 75% of their hospital bed capacity if 35% of Americans were to get sick from the H1N1 flu virus, according to a report released today by the Trust for America's Health.

In response to the outbreak, states and hospitals could cut the number of non-flu related discretionary hospitalizations, according to the TFAH researchers.

The new report, "H1N1 Challenges Ahead," based those numbers on estimates from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention's FluSurge model.

"Health departments and communities around the country are racing against the clock as the pandemic unfolds," said Jeff Levi, PhD, executive director of TFAH, a nonprofit organization that promotes making disease prevention a national priority. "The country's much more prepared than we were a few short years ago for a pandemic, but there are some long-term underlying problems, which complicate response efforts, like surge capacity and the need to modernize core public health areas like communications and surveillance capabilities."

If 35% of Americans become sick with H1N1, the researchers said that Arizona, California, Connecticut, Delaware, Hawaii, Maryland, Massachusetts, Nevada, New Jersey, New York, Oregon, Rhode Island, Vermont, Virginia, and Washington would be at or exceed hospital bed capacity.

Twelve states would be between 75% and 99% of their hospital bed capacity: Colorado, Florida, Georgia, Maine, Michigan, New Hampshire, New Mexico, North Carolina, Pennsylvania, South Carolina, Utah, and Wisconsin.

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