01 May 2009
Swine Flu Information
The Local Picture
There are currently no confirmed cases within the Highlands and Islands and at present the situation is described as “low risk.” There is one suspected case within the Highlands, who is being treated for mild symptoms at home.
Facts and symptoms
Swine flu is a new virus that has the potential to spread very quickly. Therefore healthy adults as well as the elderly, young children and people with existing medical conditions could be affected. The virus has the potential to spread very quickly between people.
Children aged six months or younger can also have tummy aches, diarrhoea and vomiting. In very young children, tiredness, poor feeding and difficulty breathing can also be early signs of flu. The symptoms of swine flu would probably be similar to those of seasonal flu, but they could be more severe and cause more serious complications. A key message during a swine should, however, be that, in case of doubt, assume an infection is swine flu, and act accordingly. It is better that someone stays at home for a couple of days with what might turn out to be a cold, than go into work or school with the early symptoms of swine flu and pass the virus onto others. See list of websites below for more detailed information.
The incubation period – the time from being exposed, to the virus to showing symptoms of infection, is from one to four days; for most people it will be two to three days. The infectious period – how long you are infectious to others. People are most infectious after they develop symptoms and remain infectious to some extent until symptoms disappear. In general, adults can continue to spread flu virus for up to five days, and children up to seven days, but occasionally longer. Over this period, the amount of virus, and therefore the risk of infection to others, will decline as symptoms improve, but does not disappear until the symptoms themselves have disappeared.
How is swine flu spread to others?
It is spread from person to person by close contact. Some examples of how it may be passed are shown below:
- Infected people can pass the virus through sneezing, coughing or talking within a close distance
- You can catch the virus by direct contact with an infected person: if you shake or hold their hand and then touch your own mouth, eyes or nose without first washing your hands
- Flu virus can be transferred to hands from hard surfaces for up to 24 hours after the surface has been contaminated and from soft items for up to two hours after, albeit in very low quantities after 15 minutes. On this basis it may be possible to catch the virus by touching objects that have previously been touched by an infected person, then touching your own mouth, nose or eyes
- In some circumstances it is thought the virus may be passed on in fine droplets – aerosols. This is NOT considered a major route of transmission and is only likely to occur during some medical procedures
What can you do as an individual?
Everyone can play their part in helping to reduce the spread of swine flu. There are two key things to remember:
Good hygiene practice
- Use a tissue to cover your mouth and nose when coughing and/or sneezing. Dispose of tissue promptly
- Wash hands frequently with soap and water, especially after coughing, sneezing and using tissues. An alcohol handrub could be used as an alternative for cleaning hands
- Avoid touching your mouth, eyes and nose unless you have recently cleaned your hands
- Use normal household detergent and water to clean surfaces frequently touched by hands
- Before you leave work wash your hands and wash them again soon after you arrive home
Two: What should you do if you have symptoms or are ill?
- seek advice by calling the national NHS 24 number 08454 242424 or your local GP.
- If your children show flu symptoms, keep them at home.
The current Foreign and Commonwealth advice should be followed, which is that travel to Mexico should be avoided until further notice.
Anti-viral Drugs – (Tamiflu) – how it should be used and where it would be available from?
Stocks are currently held by NHS Highland and island health boards. National stocks are sufficient. Only symptomatic people will be issued with anti-viral drugs if required. People are being advised to contact NHS 24 if they have symptoms 08454 242424 or contact your local GP.
Please use the following resources to find out more about swine flu.
- Scottish Government
- NHS 24
- Highlands and Islands Strategic Co-ordinating Group
- Health Protection Scotland
- Health Protection Agency
- World Health Organisation
- UK Resilience
- British Foreign and Commonwealth Office