Wednesday, 8 July 2009

Swine Flu Update

Since the advice on Swine Flu at the end of April there has been a significant change in the way the health authorities around the world are dealing with pandemic. Some might argue that they have now managed to turn the pandemic into a very healthy sustainable business making tones of money.

In the UK the policy had been to contain the spread of the virus by using a number of public health interventions. This included giving antivirals (Tamiflu) both to those who were symptomatic as a treatment as well as to their close contacts to prevent them from developing the disease. That's killing two birds with one stone... But is there a cure?

Doctors have confirmed that antivirals used in the treatment of flu are not a 'cure'. They reduce the virus spreading in the body, help the patient to recover more quickly and reduce the risk of complications. They also reduce shedding of the virus by infected people so that its spread may be delayed. However, they do not offer longer term protection. Only a vaccine can achieve this and it is not anticipated that this will be available until later in the year (October is frequently quoted as the anticipated date).

Once the virus is widespread within the community, the value of antivirals in terms of slowing the spread of the disease or offering individual protection is greatly reduced. This is because people are likely to be repeatedly exposed to the disease. It is not possible to eliminate the virus using antivirals. As a result the policy of containment has changed to one of treatment. What does this mean for F&C staff?

The advice is still to
•Maintain good basic hygiene, for example washing hands frequently with soap and water to reduce the spread of virus from your hands to face or to other people.
•Dispose of dirty tissues promptly and carefully.
•Cleaning hard surfaces (e.g. door handles) frequently using a normal cleaning product.

What should I do if I develop flu like symptoms?
You should stay at (or go) home and contact your Doctor or the health authorities and follow their advice. Your return to work should be on a date to be agreed with your Doctor.

What should I do if my family develops flu like symptoms?
Maintenance of good basic hygiene remains paramount. If you do not have flu like symptoms you may continue to come to work. However, you must consult your Doctor if these symptoms change and follow the advice given.

Will the controls on business travel be relaxed?
It continues to be good practice for only essential business travel to take place. This should be approved by your member of the Executive Committee.