Swine flu cases confirmed at Leicester Royal Infirmary
Fourteen cases of H1N1 swine flu have been confirmed at Leicester’s Royal Infirmary, resulting in the closure of three haematology wards.
The hospital says it has taken steps to prevent the virus spreading elsewhere in the hospital. Liz Collins, lead nurse for infection prevention says: “All necessary precautions were taken and these patients have been isolated to avoid an outbreak.”
Numerous other cases of swine flu have also been identified at other hospitals elsewhere in the UK in the past few weeks. But experts say H1N1 poses a similar threat as other strains of seasonal flu, for which vaccination is available to at-risk groups.
Dr John McCauley, Director of the WHO Collaborating Centre for Influenza, The Francis Crick Institute, says: “H1N1 influenza viruses have evolved from the pandemic virus of 2009 and this virus now circulates as a seasonal influenza virus. It is a component of both the live attenuated influenza vaccine and the trivalent and quadrivalent influenza vaccines that are inactivated virus components. Public Health England carries out research into the effectiveness of these vaccines each year and these studies are on-going.”
What is swine flu?
Many people will remember H1N1 or swine flu from the pandemic in 2009, which began in Mexico and later spread across the world, which resulted in a significant number of cases and deaths.
Understandably then, as new cases emerge in the UK, some people may be alarmed but experts say that H1N1 has evolved into a seasonal flu, and is included in this year’s vaccination.
Seasonal influenza is said to be typically mild and while most healthy individuals should recover quickly with plenty of fluids, rest and some over the counter medicines, it is important to emphasize that anyone that develops severe respiratory problems as a result of flu should seek urgent medical advice.
I have flu – should I see my GP?
According to NHS Choices, influenza can pose a problem for the immunosuppressed, babies and young children, the over-65s, pregnant women and those who have existing health problems, particularly heart or respiratory disease. The seasonal flu vaccination is free on the NHS for those considered to be at risk from the complications of flu, and is available privately from many pharmacies.
How can I protect myself?
Influenza is usually spread via droplet infection, ejected into the air as a result of coughing or sneezing from an infected individual. Once the virus has established itself in its new host, usually between 2-7 days, symptoms such as chills, fever, a cough, headache, aching muscles and, occasionally with H1N1, digestive upsets, begin and last for between 2-4 days.
Good hygiene, such as regular hand washing or the use of antibacterial hand gels when this is not possible, is often considered the first line of defence against flu. However, no matter how stringent you are, it can be difficult to protect yourself if you have regular contact with lots of people, for example through your employment or on public transport. This year’s flu vaccination includes protection against H1N1, as well as other currently circulating strains.
Even if you are well, when visiting healthcare settings, particularly hospitals, it is important to make use of available antibacterial hand gels to minimise the spread of infection to vulnerable patients. If you have been unwell, stay away from hospitals until you have been symptom-free for at least 48 hours.
How can I prevent spreading flu to others?
Again, good hygiene practice, such as regular hand washing, covering the mouth and nose with a fresh disposable tissue when coughing or sneezing and then discarding, regularly disinfecting key areas of cross-contamination, such as door handles and light switches and staying at home until you have recovered are all important measures to prevent the spread of flu.
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