Health and Safety company issues UK swine flu advice

The World Health Organisation has raised the level of influenza pandemic alert to phase 6 - full pandemic status...

Mitchell Winter of leading UK Health and Safety consultancy Winter and Company says: "The change to a higher phase of pandemic alert indicates that the criteria for an influenza pandemic has now been met.

"Given the widespread presence of the virus, it is considered that containment of the outbreak is not feasible.

"The current situation regarding the outbreak of swine influenza A(H1N1) is evolving rapidly."

What is swine influenza?

Swine influenza, or "swine flu", is a highly contagious acute respiratory disease.

What are the implications for human health?

Outbreaks and sporadic human infection with swine influenza have been occasionally reported. Generally clinical symptoms are similar to seasonal influenza but reported clinical presentation ranges broadly from asymptomatic infection to severe pneumonia resulting in death.

Since typical clinical presentation of swine influenza infection in humans resembles seasonal influenza and other acute upper respiratory tract infections, most of the cases have been detected by chance through seasonal influenza surveillance. Mild or asymptomatic cases may have escaped from recognition; therefore the true extent of this disease among humans is unknown.

The virus is contagious, spreading easily from one person to another, and from one country to another. There are currently nearly 30,000 confirmed cases reported in 74 countries, including over 7,000 in the UK.

How do people become infected?

  • The World Health Organisation has raised the level of influenza pandemic alert.
  • Close contact with carriers within an open environment (sneezing & coughing) .
  • Contact with infected persons within a confined space (Plane,Train, Bus, Ship).
  • Poor Hygiene (not washing hands properly and frequently).
  • Generally, cross contamination with infected persons.

    What about the pandemic risk?

    The impact of a pandemic caused by such a virus is difficult to predict, it depends on virulence of the virus, existing immunity among people, cross protection by antibodies acquired from seasonal influenza infection and host factors.

    Is there a human vaccine to protect swine influenza?

    There are no vaccines that contain the current swine influenza virus causing illness in humans. It is not known whether current human seasonal influenza vaccines can provide any protection. Influenza viruses change very quickly. It is therefore important to develop a vaccine against the currently circulating virus strain.

    How can I protect myself from getting swine influenza from infected people?

  • Only undertake essential travel and especially avoid countries/regions with confirmed cases.
  • Avoid confined spaces (plane, train, bus & ship) unless wearing prescribed and proprietary full facial respiration to nose and mouth as directed by the supplier/manufacturer, especially within high risk geographical locations.
  • Avoid close contact with people who appear unwell and who have fever and cough.
  • Wash your hands with soap and water frequently and thoroughly.
  • Practice good health habits including adequate sleep, eating nutritious food, and keeping physically active.

    If there is an ill person at home:

  • Try to provide the ill person a separate section in the house. If this is not possible, keep the patient at least 1 meter in distance from others.
  • Cover mouth and nose when caring for the ill person.
  • Wear a prescribed respirator (face mask covering nose and mouth)
  • Wash your hands with soap and water thoroughly after each contact with the ill person.
  • Try to improve the air flow in the area where the ill person stays. Use doors and windows to take advantage of breezes.
  • Keep the environment clean with readily available household cleaning agents.

    What should I do if I think I have swine influenza?

    If you feel unwell, have high fever, cough and/or sore throat:

  • Stay at home and keep away from work, school or crowds as much as possible.
  • Rest and take plenty of fluids.
  • Cover your mouth and nose with disposable tissues when coughing and sneezing and dispose of the used tissues properly.
  • Wash your hands with soap and water frequently and thoroughly, especially after coughing or sneezing.
  • Inform family and friends about your illness and seek help for household chores that require contact with other people such as shopping.
  • Contact your doctor or healthcare provider