Herts NHS prepares for flu pandemic

WITH the threat of a global flu pandemic, the health authority in Comet country is preparing for an outbreak in this area. Swine flu is confirmed to have killed at least seven people in Mexico, but it is likely to have been the cause of death of 159 peopl

WITH the threat of a global flu pandemic, the health authority in Comet country is preparing for an outbreak in this area.

Swine flu is confirmed to have killed at least seven people in Mexico, but it is likely to have been the cause of death of 159 people, with 1,300 patients still under observation.

The number of cases globally is rising, though no one outside Mexico has died.

On Tuesday, the UK and Spain confirmed two cases each and six other EU states have been monitoring patients suspected of having the virus.


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At 64, the US has the greatest number of confirmed cases outside Mexico.

Canada, New Zealand and Israel have also detected the virus, and there are suspected cases in Australia, South Korea and Peru.

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A spokesman for NHS East and North Hertfordshire said: "We are implementing plans so we are well placed to handle an outbreak if it does occur and affect Hertfordshire residents.

"We are working closely with colleagues at the Health Protection Agency, the East of England Strategic Health Authority, other NHS organisations and Hertfordshire County Council so that our approach is co-ordinated, robust and involves all relevant bodies.

"We are also communicating with GP practices and pharmacies in the area to make sure they inform us immediately if they come across any possible cases of the virus.

"Special guidance has been issued to health professionals on the handling of suspected swine flu cases."

Christine Pottage, who works for The Comet and lives in Stevenage Old Town, had planned to travel to Mexico for a week on May 20 to visit her husband, Dave, who works out there designing golf courses but felt compelled to postpone the trip.

She said: "I was really looking forward to going and seeing him. I'm very disappointed.

"I'm not going out until this scare is over, because I just don't want to get it. If I get it I won't be able to contact any of the rest of my family."

The source of the swine flu outbreak is still unknown, but it is thought it may come from a pig farm in the eastern part of Mexico.

Yesterday (Wednesday) the World Health Organisation held a meeting of scientific experts to discuss the situation.

Earlier, it confirmed the flu was being transmitted between humans and called on countries to check their contingency plans for a possible pandemic.

If you have recently travelled to any of the affected areas and are experiencing flu-like symptoms, stay at home, limit contact with other people and call your GP or NHS Direct for advice.

There are measures people can take to help prevent infection spreading. These include:

- Covering your nose and mouth when coughing or sneezing, using a tissue when possible.

- Disposing of dirty tissues promptly and carefully.

- Maintaining good basic hygiene, for example washing hands frequently with soap and water to reduce the spread of the virus from your hands to face or to other people.

- Cleaning hard surfaces (e.g. door handles) frequently using a normal cleaning product.

- Making sure that children also follow this advice.

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