Pandemic Influenza (Flu)
Pandemic Influenza (flu) is considered to be one of our highest risks.
A flu pandemic differs from seasonal flu and has more serious implications because significantly more people will be affected.
It occurs when a new flu virus emerges in the human population and spreads from person to person around the world. As it is a new virus, the entire population is susceptible as few people have immunity. People in vulnerable groups may be affected by the pandemic but it is likely that the pandemic will also affect healthy persons. The lack of immunity means the virus has the potential to spread very quickly. In the event of a flu pandemic it is important that the health and social care system as well as wider society is ready to minimise the impact and an effective response to a pandemic will require the co-operation of a wide range of organisations and the active support of the public.
As there may be very little time to develop or finalise preparations, effective pre-planning is essential. Many important features of a pandemic will not become apparent until after it has started (ie when person-to-person transmission has become sustained), so plans must be:
- constructed to deal with a wide range of possibilities;
- based on an integrated, multi-sector approach;
- built on effective service and business continuity arrangements;
- responsive to local challenges (eg rural issues) and needs;
- supported by strong local, regional and national leadership;
- in line with national planning guidelines.
Government guidance on Pandemic Flu can be viewed here: https://www.gov.uk/guidance/pandemic-flu#pandemic-flu-description-of-the-risk
WHAT CAN YOU DO?
- Keep as healthy as possible – a healthy lifestyle will be a great defence against flu and other illnesses;
- for information about the flu vaccination programme, go to the NHS Choices website;
- minimise close contacts;
- if affected, stay at home and drink plenty of fluids;
- watch out for and follow advice when issued via a range of media; including the printed press; TV; radio; NHS websites; posters and leaflets;
- keep personal stocks of ‘over the counter’ cold and flu medication to help relieve your symptoms;
- know the sickness and closure arrangements for your child’s school;
- know the sickness reporting arrangements of your employer;
- identify a flu friend - somebody who could collect your medication, food and other supplies if you become ill;
- look out for elderly relatives or neighbours who may need extra help.
- The following basic hygiene practices are known to help limit the spread of viruses and similar advice was issued during the “swine flu” outbreak of 2009, by the “Catch it, Bin it, Kill it” campaign - To reduce the risk of catching viruses, cover your mouth and nose with a tissue when coughing or sneezing, dispose of tissues quickly and regularly wash your hands with soap and water or a sanitising gel;
- further information is available on the Public Health England and NHS England websites;
- for more information about the flu vaccination programme, go to the NHS Choices website.
- Monitor your health and if any symptoms return consider revisiting the actions above.