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Swine Flu Precautions May 22, 2009

Posted by liverpoolchamber in Health / Lifestyle.


Swine Flu has dropped out of the news agenda thanks to the scandal over MPs expenses, though it’s not to be forgotten about – particularly if it could hit your business.

Here’s some useful info from the NHS to help protect your staff.

Remember though, don’t panic, just be aware and take precautions.

The Swine Flu Information Line on 0800 1 513 513 will be updated regularly

NHS Briefing for Local Authorities and Partners

Every household in the country will have received a leaflet called Important Information About Swine Flu.  This leaflet explains:

•    what swine flu is and how it can spread,
•    what preparations the UK governments have made,
•    what people can do to protect themselves and others,
•    what people should do if swine flu becomes more widespread,
•    what to do if you develop symptoms, and
•    how you can keep up to date with the latest information about swine flu.

What is swine flu and how is it different from ordinary flu?

Swine flu is a respiratory disease and has some elements of a virus found in pigs.  There is no evidence of this disease circulating in pigs in the UK and scientists are investigating its origins.

Swine flu has been confirmed in a number of countries and it is spreading from human to human, which could lead to what is referred to as a pandemic flu outbreak.

Pandemic flu is different from ordinary flu because it’s a new flu virus that appears in humans and spreads very quickly from person-to-person worldwide.  The World Health Organization (WHO) is closely monitoring cases of swine flu globally to see if this virus develops into a pandemic.

Because it’s a new virus, no one will have immunity to it and everyone could be at risk of catching it.  This includes healthy adults as well as older people, young children and those with existing medical conditions.

How does swine flu spread?

Flu viruses are made up of tiny particles that can be spread through the droplets that come out of your nose and mouth when you cough or sneeze.

When you cough or sneeze without covering your nose and mouth with a tissue, those droplets can spread and others will be at risk of breathing them in.

If you cough or sneeze into your hand, those droplets and the germs in them are then easily spread from your hand to hard surfaces that you touch, and can live on those surfaces for some time.  Everyday items like door handles, computer keyboards, mobile and ordinary phones, and the TV remote control are all common surfaces where the virus can be found.

If other people touch these surfaces and then touch their faces, the germs can enter their system and they can become infected.  That’s how all cold and flu viruses, including swine flu, are passed on from person to person.

What the UK Governments have been doing to prepare

The Government has been planning for a flu pandemic for a number of years, and the UK plan has been identified as one of the best by the World Health Organisation.

While the current situation is serious, there is good reason for us to be confident that we can deal with it.  Thanks to the work of scientists who have studied previous pandemics, we know more now about treatments and how to stop the virus spreading than ever before.

We have a good stockpile of antiviral drugs (including Tamiflu and Relenza) – enough to treat more than 33 million people (half the UK population), and we are planning to increase this is being increased to enough for 50 million – 80 percent of the population.
Antivirals, like Tamiflu, are not a cure, but they help you to recover if taken within 48 hours of symptoms developing by:

•    relieving some of the symptoms,
•    reducing the length of time you are ill by around one day, and
•    reducing the potential for serious complications, such as pneumonia.

Is there a vaccination for swine flu?

Not at this stage.  This type of flu is not the same as seasonal flu.  It involves a completely new type of virus.  A vaccine can only be developed when the specific strain has been identified and it would then take several months to produce.

The UK Government has agreements in place with manufacturers so that we can get stocks as soon as possible after a vaccine has been developed.

What can people do to protect themselves and others against flu?

The best thing that people can do to protect themselves is to follow good hygiene practices.  These will help to slow the spread of the virus and will be the single most effective thing that people can do to protect themselves and others from infection.

When you cough or sneeze it is especially important to follow the rules of good hygiene to prevent the spread of germs:

•    always carry tissues
•    use clean tissues to cover your mouth and nose when you cough and sneeze
•    bin the tissues after one use
•    wash your hands with soap and hot water or a sanitiser gel often.

There’s a simple way to remember this: CATCH IT, BIN IT, KILL IT!

What about a face mask?

A limited stockpile of facemasks and respirators is in place for use by healthcare workers when they come into close contact (within a metre) with symptomatic individuals.

You may have seen face masks being given out to the public in other countries on the news.  However, the available scientific evidence shows that these basic facemasks don’t protect the general public from becoming infected.

The best way for the public to protect themselves and to stop the spread of flu viruses is by using and disposing of tissues and washing their hands regularly, as set out above.


What else can people do?

There are some other useful actions people can take now to prepare in case swine flu becomes more widespread:

•    Set up a network of ‘flu friends’
Flu friends are neighbours, friends and relatives who can help if someone gets ill.  For example, by collecting medicines, food and other supplies, so you don’t have to leave home if you are ill.  Think about neighbours who may live alone, don’t assume they’ll be OK.  Invite them to be one of your flu friends.

•    Keep up to date with the latest information on swine flu and follow public health advice and instructions.
If swine flu spreads, everyone needs to keep informed so that they know what else they can do to protect themselves and their family.  As the situation changes, keep up to date by watching TV, listening to the radio, checking the internet and looking out for announcements in the press.

What are the symptoms of flu?

Some of the symptoms are the sudden onset of fever, cough or shortness of breath.  Other symptoms can include headache, sore throat, tiredness, aching muscles, chills, sneezing, runny nose or a loss of appetite.

What should people do if they think they might have swine flu and have just returned from mexico or an affected country?

Tell them to:

•    Stay at home;
•    Check their symptoms on http://www.nhs.uk if possible;
•    Call the Swine Flu Information line on 0800 1 513 513 to hear the latest advice;
•    If they have taken these steps and are still concerned, they should call their GP.  Or in England and Wales, call NHS Direct on 0845 4647, in Scotland call NHS 24 on 08454 24 24 24, and in Northern Ireland call 0800 0514 142.  They will give advice on symptoms and the next steps to take.
•    People should not go into their GP surgery or local accident and emergency department unless advised to do so or if they are seriously ill, because they might spread the illness to others.  They should ask their flu friend to go out for them.

It is important for us to make sure that you have up to date advice and information.  This will include further information on the arrangements that Primary Care Trusts are making to provide access to antiviral drugs, should the virus become more widespread in the UK.

The Swine Flu Information Line on 0800 1 513 513 will be updated regularly.


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