As the weather turns toward the cold and snowy this weekend, area homeless shelters are expecting a surge in visitors.
As temperatures drop this season, area homeless shelters are seeing a surge demand. But it’s also giving health officials an opportunity to provide medical treatments to a group that wouldn’t otherwise receive it.
(Photo: http://www.flickr.com/photos/egnarorm/ / CC BY-NC-SA 2.0)
Keeping up with the health needs of homeless people can be hard enough without a flu pandemic going around.
Elaine Fox is the director of Philadelphia’s Health Care for the Homeless Program. She says homeless people are plagued by chronic conditions and often live in highly concentrated groups, both of which help spread infectious diseases.
Fox: They’re considered high priority group by virtue of the fact that they live in high concentrated settings plus the people in those large adult shelters have so many chronic illnesses. hypertension, diabetes, lung problems.
Fox says her group has had a major vaccine push this year to prevent flu outbreaks at shelters.
Fox: We sent teams of staff into all the shelters to give out seasonal flu when that was available. H1N1 beginning with priority groups and the pneumonia vaccine.
Now, anyone who walks into a shelter can get a vaccine.
Fox’s groups also runs the Mary Howard Health Center in Philadelphia, which is the only health center dedicated to homeless patients. She says they are also make sure people don’t suffer from cold-related injuries like frost bite.