Care conference squares up to the challenges of swine flu

By Pits’m’Pots Reporter.

Over 250 representatives from the private care sector attended a Staffordshire Swine Flu Pandemic Conference yesterday.

The event at Uttoxeter racecourse was jointly organised by the county council and the Joint Commissioning Unit, a partnership between Staffordshire County Council, South Staffordshire Primary Care Trust and NHS North Staffordshire.

Delegates learned how private care homes should prepare for dealing with swine flu. It featured three workshops dealing with specific issues relating to the pandemic.

County Councillor Matthew Ellis, Cabinet Member for Adults and Wellbeing opened the conference.

Matthew Ellis

Matthew Ellis

He said, “Swine flu offers enormous challenges, both to the country and for Staffordshire. By working together the independent, voluntary and public sectors can help mitigate the effects. Today’s conference has helped people understand what help is available and how they can prepare their organisations.

“It is vital that we do everything we can to maintain essential social care and health services, and our community partners have a crucial role to play in responding to the needs of Staffordshire residents.

“Today’s event was filled to capacity which shows how seriously it is being taken by carers from all sectors. Maintaining services during the pandemic is currently Staffordshire County Council’s top priority.”

Other speakers were Allison Heseltine, Infection Control Lead at South Staffordshire Primary Care Trust (PCT), Andy Marshall, Director of Staffordshire Civil Contingencies Unit and Ian James, Director of the Joint Commissioning Unit.

Private carers prepare at swine flu conference

By Pits’n’Pots Reporter.

Staffordshire County Council is holding a Swine Flu Pandemic Conference for private care providers on July 29).

The event is jointly organised by the county council and the Joint Commissioning Unit, a partnership between Staffordshire County Council, South Staffordshire Primary Care Trust and NHS North Staffordshire.

It aims to ensure private care homes are prepared for dealing with swine flu. It will feature three workshops dealing with specific issues relating to swine flu.

County Councillor Matthew Ellis, Cabinet Member for Adults and Wellbeing will open the conference. He said, “Dealing with the pandemic flu is the top priority for the county council and we are taking this step to help private care providers and the voluntary sector in their preparations for what may lie ahead.

“It is vital that we do everything we can to maintain essential social care and health services, and our community partners have a crucial role to play in responding to the needs of Staffordshire residents.”

There are 337 private residential care homes in Staffordshire which are home to 10,400 people

Call to close schools over swine flu!

Source: ITN

Ministers are being asked to consider closing schools this autumn to help curb the number of swine flu infections.

Amid predictions that the number of cases will soar as the school holidays come to an end, two infection experts are saying that a school closure programme could “break the chains of transmission” and buy time to produce a vaccine.

Professor Neil Ferguson and Dr Simon Cauchemez, from the department of infectious disease epidemiology at Imperial College London, also cited studies showing that closing schools at the height of a flu pandemic could cut the number of cases by up to 45 per cent.

“The (swine flu) pandemic could become more severe, and so the current cautious approach of not necessarily recommending school closure in Europe and North America might need reappraisal in the autumn,” the pair said in an article published in the leading medical journal The Lancet.

The scientists quoted a recent French study which suggested that “proactively” closing schools could reduce flu cases by 13 per cent to 17 per cent overall, and by between 38 per cent and 45 per cent during the outbreak’s peak.

The report said as children appeared to be more susceptible to the current bug than adults, there could be “strong arguments” for ministers to revisit their policy on school closures.

“It is…hoped that closure of schools during the pandemic might break the chains of transmission, with the following potential benefits: reducing the total number of cases; slowing the epidemic to give more time for vaccine production; and reducing the incidence of cases at the peak of the epidemic, limiting both the stress on healthcare systems and peak absenteeism in the general population, and thus increasing community-wide resilience,” the researchers said.

Previously Schools Secretary Ed Balls said that there is “no longer” a case for closing schools to contain the infection’s spread as the virus was already established in the community.

But he added: “We will be monitoring the situation closely over the school holidays and will review the evidence in late August.”

The Health Protection Agency (HPA) estimates there were 55,000 new cases of swine flu in England the week before last, including people visiting GPs and those who are looking after themselves at home.

The total number of deaths linked to swine flu now stands at 29 in the UK.

Alert: Important information about swine flu

By Pits’n’Pots Reporter.

There were an estimated 55,000 new cases of swine flu in the UK last week, and 29 people have died so far. Read the latest official advice to help protect yourself and others.

Symptoms

Check your symptoms

Follow the link below or call 0800 1 513 513

Flu symptoms can include:

  • fever
  • cough
  • headache
  • weakness and fatigue
  • aching muscles and joints
  • sore throat
  • runny nose

As with any sort of influenza, how bad and how long the symptoms last will depend on treatment and the patient’s individual circumstances.

Most cases reported in the UK have been relatively mild, with those affected starting to recover within a week.

Who is at risk?

Some groups of people are more at risk of serious illness if they catch swine flu. It is vital that people in these higher risk groups get anti-viral drugs and start taking them as soon as possible ““ within 48 hours of the onset of symptoms.

Health authorities are still learning about the swine flu virus, but the following people are known to be at higher risk:

  • pregnant women
  • people aged 65 years and older
  • young children under five years old

People suffering from the following illnesses are also at increased risk:

  • chronic lung disease
  • chronic heart disease
  • chronic kidney disease
  • chronic liver disease
  • chronic neurological disease
  • Immunosuppression (whether caused by disease or treatment)
  • Diabetes mellitus
  • patients who have had drug treatment for asthma within the past three years

What is an epidemic and a pandemic?

An epidemic is a sudden outbreak of disease that spreads through a single population or region in a short amount of time.

A pandemic occurs when there is a rapidly-spreading epidemic of a disease that affects most countries and regions of the world.

Swine flu is now a pandemic. Pandemic flu occurs when an influenza virus emerges that is so different from previously circulating strains that few, if any, people have any immunity to it. This allows it to spread widely and rapidly, causing serious illness.

Ordinary flu and pandemic flu – the differences

Ordinary flu:

  • occurs every year during the winter
  • affects 10 to 15 per cent of the UK popuation
  • most people recover within 1 or 2 weeks without medical treatment
  • can be identified in advance and a vaccine can be made (this immunisation is known as the flu jab and helps protect people from ordinary flu)

Pandemic flu:

  • occurs during any season
  • affects more people than ordinary flu (up to half the population)
  • is a more serious infection
  • people of all ages may be at risk of infection
  • a vaccine cannot be made because the virus strain has not been identifed
  • antiviral medicine is stockpiled to treat people

Key messages

If you have flu-like symptoms and are concerned that you may have swine flu:

  • Read up on NHS Direct swine flu symptom checker
  • If you are then still concerned, stay at home and call your GP
  • If swine flu is confirmed, ask a healthy friend or relative to visit your GP to pick up a document entitling you to antiviral medication
  • They will then need to pick the medication up at a collection point your GP will advise on (a local pharmacy or similar)

Note: If you belong to a high-risk group it is particularily important you start taking antivirals as soon as possible. High-risk groups include people with long-term conditions, those over 65, children under five and pregnant women.

Key reading

Key actions

Swine flu is spreading fast in the UK with several hundred new cases being confirmed daily. Prepare now:

  • Establish a network of “flu friends” – friends and relatives – who can help if you fall ill. They could, for example, collect medicines and food for you
  • Make sure that you have an adequate amount of paracetamol-based cold remedies in the house in case you become ill

Good hygiene

Preventing the spread of germs is the single most effective way to slow the spread of diseases such as swine flu. You should always:

  • Ensure everyone washes their hands regularly with soap and water
  • Clean surfaces regularly to get rid of germs
  • Use tissues to cover your mouth and nose when you cough or sneeze
  • Place used tissues in a bin as soon as possible
  • For more on the changes announced by government today go to Swine flu latest news

Sources: NHS Direct/DirectGov

Swine ‘Flu Can’t Be Contained!

By Tony Walley.

Andy Burnham

Andy Burnham

As there are now several confirmed cases of swine ‘flu in our city and if we are to believe

the media coverage of this topic, we could be in for many more……

The number of swine flu cases could reach more than 100,000 per day by the end of next month, Health Secretary Andy Burnham has warned.

The UK has moved past the stage of containing the swine flu outbreak and into the “treatment phase”, he said.

“We have reached the next stage in management of the disease,” Mr Burnham told the Commons.

“The national focus will be on treating the increasing numbers affected by swine flu. We will move to this treatment phase across the UK with immediate effect.”

There are now 7,447 laboratory-confirmed cases in the UK, he said.

London and the West Midlands have already had sufficiently high numbers to move towards a policy of outbreak management, which saw people with swine flu clinically diagnosed rather than being confirmed by laboratory reports.

Mr Burnham said that last week saw a “considerable rise” in swine flu cases.

“There are now on average several hundred new cases every day,” he said.

“Our efforts during the containment phase have given us precious time to learn more about the virus. We have always known it would be impossible to contain the virus indefinitely and at some point we would need to move away from containment to treatment.”

He added: “We have now signed contracts to secure enough vaccine for the whole population.” The first will become available next month, with 60 million doses available by the end of the year.

Source: Yahoo

Too late to prevent swine flu spreading to the UK

By Pits’n’Pots Reporter.

The swine flu virus first detected in Mexico can no longer be contained and countries should focus on mitigating its effects, a top UN official said.

World Health Organization deputy chief Keiji Fukuda was speaking as the WHO raised its alert level to four, or two steps short of a full pandemic.

UN food inspectors are going to Mexico to examine reports that industrial pig farms were the source of the outbreak.

The number of probable deaths from the virus there has risen to 152.

New Zealand confirmed at least three cases on Tuesday, and Israel one.

The US, Canada, Spain and Britain confirmed cases earlier but no deaths have been reported outside Mexico.

Alert level four means the virus is showing a sustained ability to pass from human to human and is able to cause community-level outbreaks.

Mr Fukuda said this was a “significant step towards pandemic influenza” but a pandemic should not be considered inevitable.

Experts did not recommend closing borders or restricting travel, he stressed.

“With the virus being widespread… closing borders or restricting travel really has very little effects in stopping the movement of this virus,” he said.

Here in the UK tour operator Thomas Cook has cancelled all flights from UK airports to the holiday resort of Cancun in Mexico because of swine flu fears.

Flights to the holiday resort would be suspended until May 5, the company said.

Holiday firm Thomson has also stopped several flights to Cancun and is bringing home its holidaymakers already in Mexico.

Scottish Health Minister Nicola Sturgeon said seven other people who had been in contact with them, among 22 tested, had shown signs of similar illness.

The seven have developed “mild symptoms” which had not been confirmed as swine flu and are being treated with drugs at home.

Another person received treatment at Manchester Airport this morning after becoming ill on a flight from Cancun.

A Health Protection Agency spokesman said the patient has been sent home to be monitored by a GP.

Meanwhile, Gordon Brown has said he will join a ministerial meeting of the Cobra emergencies committee later today. He will take part by phone, as he is in Poland.

Speaking in Warsaw, he said the Government would take “all the action necessary” and insisted Britain was prepared to deal with a major flu outbreak.

The Foreign Office has advised against all but essential travel to Mexico over the swine flu outbreak.

On its website, the FCO also said routine consular and all visa services at its embassy in Mexico City had been suspended until further notice.

Prime Minister Goron Brown has released this statement:

httpv://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rTvU70avpr4

Source: BBC/Sky/ITN