Swine flu plans advance as virus takes hold

AS SWINE flu takes hold in Comet country, plans to deal with the pandemic are advancing. More than a dozen cases of swine flu have been confirmed in Stevenage, North Herts and Mid Beds, and NHS East and North Hertfordshire is reporting a steady increase i

AS SWINE flu takes hold in Comet country, plans to deal with the pandemic are advancing.

More than a dozen cases of swine flu have been confirmed in Stevenage, North Herts and Mid Beds, and NHS East and North Hertfordshire is reporting a steady increase in the number of cases in the county.

The virus is becoming so widespread in the UK that suspected cases are no longer going through laboratory testing. Instead, people are being diagnosed by GPs and those with symptoms are being offered the anti-viral drug, Tamiflu.

Schools are no longer closing, as emergency plans switch from the containment to the treatment phase.


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Three schools in Baldock currently have pupils absent with swine flu.

At St Mary's Infant School, one child is off and another has recently returned after being quarantined at home.

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And at St Mary's Junior School, one pupil is absent with the virus.

Headteacher, Pat Jenkins, said: "We had a Health Week just before this scare and reminded the children to wash their hands. We gave out a letter to parents and are doing all the things we normally do."

At The Knights Templar, two pupils are absent with swine flu, with one pupil having returned after overcoming the illness.

Headteacher, Andrew Pickering, said: "We insist the children wash their hands with an alcoholic rub on the way in to the refectory and we are fastidious in cleaning toilets and surfaces. It's what we have always done - there's nothing new in terms of swine flu."

Hertfordshire County Council (HCC) is now advising employers to prepare for the possibility of having a significantly reduced workforce due to staff on sick leave. Advice issued says: "If you are an employer, or run your own small business, now is the time to ensure you have arrangements in place to enable your business to operate in the event of staff sickness or problems with suppliers."

HCC suggests establishing an emergency communications plan and implementing an exercise to test the plan, as well as establishing policies for a flexible worksite.

Next week the Diocese of Westminster intends to issue guidelines to Catholic churches in the region regarding the ministering of Holy Communion during the swine flu pandemic.

On its website, it currently says: "Only in the case of a grave outbreak of flu is there need for any change to the normal arrangements for the ministering of Holy Communion. In such a case, instructions will be issued."

Lister Hospital in Stevenage is encouraging those concerned about swine flu to follow national advice and not attend A&E.

Peter Gibson, spokesman for the hospital, said: "We have systems in place to ensure that where people do attend, they are seen without putting anyone else at undue risk. This includes additional information signage on Lister's A&E entrance."

Scott Banks, of Harrow Court in Stevenage, said he was confirmed as having swine flu on Monday and has been given the anti-viral drug, Tamiflu.

In an exclusive interview with The Comet, the 35-year-old said: "I feel like I have got a golf ball stuck in my throat, my sides are aching and I'm not really with it.

"I've been sick and I can't breathe very well. My chest is really tight.

"It's knocking me sideways. My temperature is up and I'm sitting here sweating.

"My face has puffed up and I can't feel my hands.

"I'm pretty fit, but I'm worried.

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