Influenza and Pandemic Flu Guidelines

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1 Influenza and Pandemic Flu Guidelines Introduction Pandemic flu is a form of influenza that spreads rapidly to affect most countries and regions around the world. Unlike the 'ordinary' flu that occurs every winter in the UK, pandemic flu can occur at any time of year. Pandemics of influenza have occurred sporadically throughout history, three times in the last hundred years and experts predict another pandemic will occur, although they cannot say exactly when it will happen. When it does, it may come in two or more waves several months apart and each wave may last two or three months. Pandemics of flu are due to the emergence of a new flu virus, which is markedly different from recently circulating strains. Though the symptoms will be similar to those of 'ordinary flu' they are likely to be more severe because few, if any, people will have immunity or protection against it. Each pandemic is different and until the virus starts circulating, it is impossible to predict its full effects. A quarter of the population may be affected, perhaps more. With an issue as new and uncertain as pandemic flu, appropriate and effective communication is essential. Lack of communication can result in potentially dangerous misinformation. In contrast, the press and media can prove a useful tool for disseminating health and safety information quickly. All enquiries regarding the University's management of pandemic flu should be directed to Corporate Communications who can be reached on (out of hours ). What is swine influenza? Swine Influenza is a respiratory disease of pigs caused by type A influenza viruses. Outbreaks of swine influenza happen regularly in pigs. People do not normally get swine influenza, but human infections can and do happen. Most commonly, human cases of swine influenza happen in people who are around pigs but it s possible for swine influenza viruses to spread from person to person also. Infection with swine influenza virus has been detected occasionally in humans since the 1950s and human disease is usually clinically similar to disease caused by infections with human influenza viruses. Cases of swine influenza in humans usually occur after a history of exposure to pigs, i.e. direct or close contact with infected pigs. Person-to-person transmission, as suspected in the cases currently under investigation, have been previously reported, but appear to be rare. What is avian influenza? Bird flu - avian influenza - is caused by an influenza Type A virus that mainly affects wild and domestic birds (particularly domestic poultry and waterfowl such as chicken and ducks). It can spread rapidly between birds causing sickness and high death rates, especially in poultry farms and live bird markets where birds are kept close together. There are many different types of the bird flu virus, one of which is a strain known as H5N1, which currently has affected a large number of countries in Asia, Africa, and Europe. It is extremely contagious, but the risk of it spreading to humans is very low.

2 What are the symptoms of swine influenza and avian influenza? The symptoms of swine influenza and avian influenza in people are similar to the symptoms of regular human seasonal influenza infection and include: Fever Fatigue Lack of appetite Coughing Sore throat Vomiting and diarrhoea. What is the difference between seasonal influenza, avian influenza, swine influenza and an influenza pandemic? Influenza viruses are commonly circulating in the human and animal environment. Different strains can cause illness in humans, bird and pigs. Seasonal influenza is caused by influenza viruses that are adapted to spread in humans (human influenza). Humans have some natural immunity to the strains that are in common circulation, and this immunity can be bolstered by immunisation with a seasonal influenza vaccine. Avian influenza is caused by influenza viruses adapted for infection in birds. Similarly, swine influenza is caused by influenza viruses adapted for infection in pigs. These illnesses all elicit the same respiratory symptoms in their hosts. Sometimes, humans and animals can pass strains of influenza back and forth to one another, such as when humans become ill with avian or swine influenza, usually from direct contact with animals who are ill. Mixing of human and animal influenza viruses can lead to the development of changed viruses with the ability to cause infection and spread in the human population. There may be little or no immunity in the human population to these new viruses. An influenza pandemic is defined as a new or novel influenza virus that spreads easily between humans. When new influenza viruses are introduced into the environment, humans don t have any natural immunity to protect against them. Therefore, there is a

3 risk that that new influenza viruses could develop into a pandemic if the virus passes easily from human-to-human. Where can I find out more? NHS Direct website (NHS Direct Interactive on digital satellite TV (by pressing the interactive button on the remote control) NHS Direct on (calls charged at local rates) micflufacts

4 Pandemic Flu: the facts As with 'ordinary' flu, pandemic flu is likely to develop suddenly and be severe. Symptoms usually include fever, chills, headaches and aching muscles. A cough, sore throat or conjunctivitis may develop at the same time. What can I do? You can reduce, but not eliminate, the risk of catching or spreading influenza during a pandemic by: Maintaining good basic hygiene, for example washing your hands frequently with soap and water to reduce the spread of the virus from your hands to your face, or to other people. Covering your nose and mouth when coughing or sneezing, using a tissue when possible. Disposing of dirty tissues promptly and carefully bag and bin them. Cleaning hard surfaces (e.g. kitchen worktops, door handles) frequently, using a normal cleaning product. Is there a vaccine to protect against pandemic flu? At the time of going to press, there is no vaccine to protect against pandemic flu. Such a vaccine cannot be made until the new virus has been identified. Before a pandemic starts it is difficult to predict what strain will cause it and even then, predictions may prove wrong. Also the new virus may change enough that a pre-prepared vaccine becomes ineffective. 'Ordinary' flu vaccines will not protect against pandemic flu. Medicines called antivirals can be used to treat pandemic flu, but their effectiveness will not be known until the pandemic virus is circulating. If you do catch flu: Go to bed and rest. Telephone your GP, or call NHS Direct or your doctor's surgery if your condition suddenly becomes much worse. Take medicines such as aspirin, ibuprofen or paracetamol to relieve the symptoms (following the instructions with the medicines). Drink plenty of fluids. Telephone you line manager These measures are for your own health and to avoid spreading the illness to others. More information will be available at the time of a pandemic through leaflets, websites and the media. Such information will tell you how you can protect yourself and others and what to do if you think you are infected. Treatment will be recommended for some people but information will be given at the time.

5 Infection Control measures The Infectious Disease Management Group will also be issuing periodic precautionary advice on infection control measures. Registration of students/staff with a doctor Every student and member of staff should be registered with a doctor. General Practices will be key to the delivery of treatment and inoculation measures: registration will ensure prompt access to appropriate service, and will allow medical centres to plan more accurately. Reducing risks You can reduce, but not eliminate, the risk of catching influenza during a pandemic by: Maintaining good basic hygiene, for example washing hands frequently with soap and water to reduce the spread of a virus from hands to face, or to other people. Covering your nose and mouth when coughing and sneezing, using a tissue where possible. Disposing of dirty tissues promptly and carefully bag and bin them. Cleaning hard surfaces (e.g. kitchen worktops, door handles) frequently using a normal cleaning product.

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