Swine flu advice and information

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Current position

There has been a substantial decrease in the estimated numbers of swine flu cases reported recently and the National Pandemic Flu Service is now closed. 

The behaviour of influenza viruses is notoriously hard to predict and as such we strongly encourage those who are offered the vaccine to accept and we remain on guard for any potential change in the current trends.

 

Information for parents of children over six months and under five years old

All children between the ages of six months and under five years of age are now being offered the swine flu vaccine.

Young children are being offered the vaccine to protect them from swine flu and its possible complications. They seem to be particularly vulnerable to severe illness as a result of swine flu, resulting in hospitalisation. Children under five have significantly higher rates of hospitalisation than children aged five to fifteen.

Healthy children in this age group are also far more likely to be hospitalised as a result of swine flu than healthy people in other age groups. They also have high rates of admission to critical care and some children under five have died as a result of swine flu. Vaccination is the best way to protect young children from possible complications.

Vaccination of children within this age group has commenced within north east Essex and many GP practices are in the process of setting up clinics. Please look out for a letter from your GP practice inviting you to contact the surgery to arrange vaccination and act on this as soon as possible to ensure your child is vaccinated at the earliest opportunity.

Practices will arrange clinics at different times and therefore your child may not be offered vaccine at the same time as others in your local community. It is our aim, in north east Essex, to have offered vaccination against swine flu to all children within the qualifying age range before 31st March 2010.

An information leaflet below will answer the majority of frequently asked questions.  If you have any further queries, please contact your GP practice.

Swine flu: information for parents of children over 6 months and under 5 years old


What is Swine Flu and how serious is it?

A new strain in Influenza A (H1N1), also known as swine flu, was confirmed in the UK in April and has spread to more than 100 countries around the world.

The most common symptoms are fever, sore throat, diarrhoea, headache, feeling generally unwell and a dry cough - in other words, symptoms very similar to seasonal flu.  Most people recover within a week, even without antiviral treatment.  It makes sense to have a working thermometer at home, as an increase in temperature is one of the main symptoms.  If you are unsure how to use a thermometer, advice is available on NHS Choices.

Although symptoms have generally proved mild, a small number of patients will develop more serious illness.  Many of these people have other underlying health conditions, such as heart or lung disease, that put them at increased risk.


What should you do if you think you have swine flu?

1.  Call your GP directly if:

  • you have a serious existing illness that weakens your immune system, such as cancer
  • you have a sick child under one
  • your condition suddenly gets much worse or
  • your condition is still getting worse after seven days (five for a child)

Those people with serious underlying illness, who are pregnant or whose condition suddenly worsens should consult their GP if they are concerned they have swine flu.   Parents or carers of children under the age of one should consult their GP straight away if they are concerned that the child may have swine flu.

Which groups are at greatest risk from swine flu?

Some groups of people are more at risk of serious illness if they catch swine flu and will need to start taking antivirals as soon as they are confirmed with the illness.  More is still being learned about the risk profile of the virus, but we already know that the following people are particularly susceptible:

  • People with 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
  • People aged 65 years and older
  • Young children under five years old

It is vital that people in these higher risk groups get antivirals and start taking them as soon as possible - within 48 hours of the onset of symptoms.  Clear guidance has been issued to GPs on this.

What about a vaccine?

As of 10 December, 2.3m doses of the vaccine have been administered to at risk patients in England, including 81,000 pregnant women.

308,000 doses have been administered to front line health care staff in England, so far.

These figures are encouraging as vaccination has only been taking place over the last five weeks. The programme continues.

Frequently asked questions

I'm in one of the vaccine priority groups but with the worst over I'm not sure I'll have the vaccine now.

Vaccination against swine flu is the best defence, both now and in the coming months.  Even though cases have gone down many people who have not been infected will remain susceptible to infection unless they are vaccinated. Getting the vaccine is the best way to protect yourself and those around you from catching swine flu. 

Vaccination of at-risk groups is well under way. But we can't vaccinate everyone straight away. Young children, who have the highest rates of hospitalisation with swine flu of any age group, will be offered the vaccine next.

And finally...

It's important that people continue to do everything they can to stop swine flu from spreading.

Keep practising good respiratory and hand hygiene.  In other words, remember to Catch it, Bin it, Kill it.  Catch your sneeze in a tissue, place it quickly in a bin and wash your hands and surfaces regularly to kill the virus.

 

Statement of Assurance presented at the Board Meeting of NHS North East Essex
on 29 September 2009

The NHS North East Essex Board considers that it has sufficient assurance to confirm that this Primary Care Trust is at a sufficient state of readiness at this point in time to respond to an escalation in the H1N1 pandemic. This includes, for example, the production and implementation of plans, procedures and infrastructure to effectively manage a vaccination programme, surge management (in conjunction with its acute provider), business continuity and human resources issues and requirements. The Board accepts that the frequently changing nature of this situation means that it is not possible to predict and prepare for every eventuality in advance but the Board is confident that the flexible nature of the Trust’s planning mechanisms will allow it to adapt existing or create new plans in order to address changing scenarios. 

 

Useful materials

This version of the NHS North East Essex Influenza Pandemic Plan was compiled in February 2009, before the swine flu pandemic commenced.  Since then, there have been many changes to procedures and arrangements which have occurred, and continue to occur, at such a pace that it has not been possible to keep the Plan constantly up to date.  Hence, a full refresh of the Plan will take place after the pandemic begins to subside.  In the meantime, readers should be aware that sections of the published Plan may no longer be accurate.

Poster showing best hygiene practice (this may take some time to download). 

Useful links:

NHS swine flu advice

NHS swine flu Health A-Z

NHS swine flu symptoms

NHS swine flu Q&A

NHS swine flu news

NHS swine flu - other languages

Multi-lingual hand washing advice

For cross-government information on swine flu, go to Directgov

For business information on swine flu, go to Business Link

NHS Direct

Health Protection Agency

World Health Organisation

NHS East of England Pandemic Influenza Plan

See our Flu page for information on seasonal flu