Letter to Branches
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General Secretary: Billy Hayes (www.billyhayes.co.uk)
To: All Branches Dear Colleagues Swine Flu - HPA Advice on Exclusion from Workplaces and Schools
This LTB is being issued further to LTB 394/09 dated 5 May 2009, entitled "Swine Influenza (Swine Flu) H1N1 Strain Outbreak". Following the closure of some schools as a precautionary measure, where probable or confirmed cases of swine flu have occurred, the Health Protection Agency (HPA) has provided the following advice for the public. This advice relates to the current situation in which the strategy is to delay and reduce onward transmission of the illness. Such advice may change as understanding of the virus improves. The only people who need to refrain from their normal activities (such as going to work or to school) are:
those who have been confirmed as having swine flu;
those with symptoms who are being investigated and tested as a possible or probable case of swine flu; or
those who have been attending a school where a case is found to have been present and have symptoms of the illness (a possible case).
Anyone who is being investigated as a possible case of swine flu (which means they meet the epidemiological criteria and have symptoms) will be given antiviral medicine and will be asked to stay at home and limit their contact with other people until the test results are available.
Close contacts of probable or confirmed cases (family, close friends etc) will be started on antiviral medicine as a precautionary measure but can continue their normal lives so long as they do not have any clinical symptoms.
Adults and Children who have no symptoms but have had contact with probable or confirmed cases in social community settings do not need to be excluded from either the workplace or school. They should continue their normal daily routines 'business as usual' (unless they have been given specific advice not to attend work or school by a medical practitioner).
Infection Control It is important to remember that flu is usually spread from one person to another when an infected person has symptoms (i.e. coughing and sneezing). General infection control practices and good respiratory hand hygiene can help to reduce transmission of all viruses, including swine flu. This includes:
Covering your nose and mouth when coughing or sneezing, using a tissue when possible.
Disposing of dirty tissues promptly and carefully.
Maintaining good basic hygiene, for example washing hands frequently with soap and water to reduce the spread of the virus from your hands to face or to other people.
Cleaning hard surfaces (e.g. door handles) frequently using a normal cleaning product.
Making sure your children follow this advice.
The wearing of face masks and gloves by healthy people, who are not involved in caring for people who are ill, is not recommended by HPA who state that although face masks have been given out in Mexico, there is no actual evidence that proves wearing a face mask will stop you getting the virus. It’s more effective to use tissues when sneezing and coughing and wash your hands regularly.
The national guidelines issued to all UK households by the government and Dept of Health continues to hold the field including good standards of hygiene. (copy attached).
Confirmed Cases At June 19 the total confirmed number of UK Swine Flu Cases was 1,984. Region: Cases:
Worldwide there have been 19,315 confirmed swine flu cases in 66 countries, with 117 deaths - all in Mexico and the USA. General
Most people contracting Swine Flu have either been those returning from holidays abroad (Mexico and parts of the USA mainly) or others coming in contact with families who have returned home with Swine Flu.
The overwhelming majority of Swine Flu cases have shown only mild symptoms and have responded very well to "Tamiflu" medication.
Advice from the health authorities is very simple, if you or a member of your family is showing flu-like symptoms, stay at home and contact your GP or the NHS Direct. You will then be taken through a series of questions and where necessary you will be given the correct advice, testing or treatment.
Tamiflu has been given as a precaution to the schoolchildren and staff in schools where outbreaks have occurred and to close contacts of probable or confirmed cases (family, friends or otherwise) as a precautionary measure but widespread administering of the medication as a precaution is not advisable as the drug is a 'treatment' and is not a 'vaccine'. To be effective Tamiflu needs to taken within 48 hours of the onset of symptoms. The illness may be shortened by a day and reduce the risk of complications.
The World Health Organization (WHO) uses a series of six phases of pandemic alert to inform the world of the seriousness of the threat and the need to launch progressively more intense preparedness activities. WHO has raised its pandemic alert level from Phase 5 to 6. The move to Phase 6 should not be a cause for concern. WHO's decision to declare a pandemic is based on what is happening globally with swine flu and does not suggest a sudden shift in the UK situation. The move to Phase 6 does not mean the infection is becoming more severe. It reflects the level of spread of the infection, not a change in its severity.
Further information on swine flu is available on the Health Protection Agency's website at www.hpa.org.uk/swineflu. Helplines: Swine Flu Information Line 0800 1 513 513 to hear the latest advice. This will be updated regularly If people are still concerned, they can call:
· NHS Direct Wales on 0845 4647 in Wales
They will give people advice on their symptoms and the next steps to take. Advice is to contact a doctor if an individual develops complications, like a shortness of breath -but advice is for the person with symptoms not to go to the surgery themselves due to the risk of spreading infection. Royal Mail have issued a WTLL "Lets Talkabout" Brief (copy attached) on the subject Swine Flu and 'contact with people returning from abroad'. The WTLL "Lets Talkabout" Brief confirms the UK Health Protection Agency advise that there is no need to quarantine anyone who has visited countries where swine flu has been discovered. On the basis of the best available medical advice, Royal Mail advise the workforce that anyone with flu symptoms should report sick, people without symptoms should report for work and everyone should work normally with anyone who is not sick. Yours Sincerely Dave Joyce National Health, Safety & Environment Officer
Footnote: This LTB is for information only and should not be used for the diagnosis or treatment of medical conditions. Consult a doctor or other health care professional for diagnosis and treatment of medical conditions.
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