Swine Flu - Bedfordshire NHS

The following was received from Paul Cooper, Media Relations Manager, NHS Bedfordshire on August 25th 2009

Background/ current arrangements

Background/ current arrangements

NHS Bedfordshire has been working hard with its partner organisations in the county for several years to ensure we are well prepared to deal with a pandemic. These plans have now been implemented and our focus is now also on advising members of the public on how to be prepared.

Members of the public can call the national swine flu information line for general information and advice on swine flu on 0800 1 513 513. This is a recorded information line.

However, due to the significant rise in swine flu cases in July, which peaked at 130,000 new cases a week, the government launched its National Pandemic Flu Service. This allows members of the public who suspect they have swine flu to access advice and if necessary antiviral treatment. It can be accessed via the internet (www.pandemicflu.direct.gov.uk/) or by calling 0800 1 513 100. In certain circumstances, such as if the patient is pregnant or has an underlying health condition, they will be advised to contact their GP for further advice.

To coincide with the launch of this service NHS Bedfordshire and NHS Luton are operating a number of antiviral collection points, which could be a specially set up centre or a local pharmacy.

These are designed for those who have accessed the National Pandemic Flu Service and who have been given a unique reference number (URN) to collect antiviral medication. They will be given details of their nearest collection point and will be asked to send a ‘flu friend’ (a friend or member of the family who does not have flu-like symptoms) to collect the medication. The flu friend should bring two pieces of identification to the collection point– one for the patient and one of their own.

Details of the collection points, together with their opening times are available on the National Pandemic Flu Service website and updated information will also be available on the NHS Bedfordshire website (www.bedfordshire.nhs.uk).

It is important to note that the swine flu situation is a quickly changing one and this means our response to swine flu will also need to change. Changes may include the number of collection points operating or their opening hours.

Cases of swine have recently fallen but we do expect a second wave in the autumn. Therefore now is a good time to reinforce messages to the public to ensure we are all prepared.

In the near future we expect to hear further details about a swine flu vaccine. We will again be very happy to share this important information, in addition to details of the seasonal flu vaccine, as we receive it. Your help in disseminating this information would be invaluable.

You may like to use the following sections in your newsletters or other channels of communication.

Flu Friends:

It is recommended that each person identifies up to five flu friends. Please be aware of vulnerable people in the community, such as the elderly or others living alone and encourage them to seek support through networks set up by local organisations, such as churches or parish councils.

Now is the time to identify a network of ‘flu friends’. These can be relatives, neighbours friends or members of a local community group, who will collect medicines, food and other supplies for people who get swine flu, so that they don’t have to leave home. The steps to take are:

  1. Identify your flu friends and check that they are happy to help you;
  2. Keep their details handy;
  3. Make sure you have your ID to hand, in case your flu friend needs to collect medicines for you (both the patient and the flu friend will need to provide ID such as a passport or driving licence when they collect medication); and
  4. Think about neighbours who may live alone or family members that might need help, and perhaps offer to be their flu friend.

Prevention:

Maintaining high standards of cleanliness is the single most effective way to help prevent the spread of all viruses including swine flu. Wash your hands regularly with soap and water or use a hand gel. In particular, clean door handles and other hard surfaces on a regular basis with normal cleaning products. Remember: Catch it, Bin it, Kill it!

Preparation:

  • Ensure that you have good stocks of food and fluids at home so that you won’t have to go shopping if you are ill.
  • Make sure you order any repeat prescriptions for everyone in your household to ensure that you won’t run out.
  • Keep a supply of tissues and toilet paper at home, along with cleaning products that will help to maintain cleanliness.
  • Check that you have normal flu remedies suitable for each member of the household e.g. correct doses of paracetamol for children, as well as adults.

Advice for those who suspect they have swine flu:

Symptoms and precautions:

People who have any of the following symptoms and a temperature of 38° C and above or feels hot may have swine flu. The typical symptoms are:

  • Sudden fever (a high body temperature of 38°C/100.4°F or above), and
  • Sudden cough.

Other symptoms may include: headache, tiredness, chills, aching muscles, limb or joint pain, diarrhoea or stomach upset, sore throat, runny nose, sneezing, and loss of appetite.

Members of the public who suspect they have swine flu should be advised to contact the National Pandemic Flu Service. However the advice is to call their GP directly if:

  • They have a serious underlying illness
  • They are pregnant
  • They have a sick child under one year old
  • Their condition suddenly gets much worse
  • Their condition is still getting worse after seven days (or five days for a child)

We are asking that the public do not turn up at their GP or A&E departments unless they have been advised to do so by a health professional.

There are many other questions people want to ask about swine flu and the NHS website has a useful question and answer section which local residents may find helpful: www.nhs.uk/Conditions/Pandemic-flu/Pages/QA.aspx