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The World Health Organization (WHO) has stated that preparedness for effectively facing a major influenza epidemic should involve the training of physicians in the management of contagious diseases and upgrading hospital resources and procedures [1]. Children would be particularly vulnerable during an influenza pandemic and specific measures are needed to face the threat to them effectively. We performed a national survey to obtain information about the preparedness in facing a major influenza outbreak in Italian paediatric units. In Italy, paediatrics clinics are found in both paediatric wards and paediatric departments. Departments are more complex structures, containing several units with different specialisations and facilities. For this study, we interviewed heads of both departments and units. A structured questionnaire, including 30 items, was submitted to the heads of 150 paediatric hospital departments across the country. Responses were obtained from 123 units; 10% of these had rooms dedicated to infectious diseases, and 4% had experts in infectious diseases available and routinely applied procedures for preventing the spreading of acute infectious diseases. Only 8% of departments have paediatric intensive care facilities. Few paediatric units, usually located in large children's hospitals or in academic paediatric departments, have a sufficient degree of preparedness to face severe influenza pandemics. A structural improvement of the paediatric units and the use specific procedures are essential for effectively care for children hospitalised because of contagious diseases.


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