England Updates On Confirmed Swine Flu Cases
Three further patients under investigation in England have today been confirmed with swine flu, bringing the current total number of confirmed UK cases to eight.
Testing of the swine flu virus was carried out by the Health Protection Agency's Centre for Infections Virus Reference Department.
Two of the new cases are from the London area and one is from the North East of England. All have mild symptoms and are responding to treatment at home.
The Health Protection Agency is working to ensure that any close contacts of the three patients are offered antivirals as a precautionary measure. At this stage close contacts who should be offered antivirals as a precautionary measure are those individuals who have been exposed to a probable or confirmed case within the previous seven days for longer than one hour and within a distance of one metre or less.
All eight confirmed cases up to now have been associated with travel to Mexico. The Health Protection Agency's advice remains that individuals returning from affected areas who become unwell within seven days of their return should stay at home and contact their GP or NHS Direct. Individuals will be assessed and, if necessary, testing and treatment will be provided.
The Health Protection Agency is continuing to monitor events and work closely alongside the UK government, to review the ongoing events and assess any threat they pose to UK public health. This includes:
* Enhancing the Agency's presence at airports in England to provide all passengers arriving from Mexico with information and advice on swine flu.
* A leaflet produced by the Health Protection Agency, the Department of Health and the UK Borders Agency is being made available at all ports of entry into the UK providing passengers arriving in the UK with information on swine flu.
* Specialist liaison to the UK Embassy in Mexico to aid the UK effort to tackle swine flu.
The World Health Organization (WHO) has raised its pandemic alert level to Phase 5. 'This is characterised by human-to-human spread of the virus into at least two countries in one WHO region. While most countries will not be affected at this stage, the declaration of Phase 5 is a strong signal that pandemic is imminent and that the time to finalise the organisation, communication and implementation of the planned mitigation measures is short'. The Agency is well prepared to meet the requirements of phase 5.
Anyone returning from affected areas who becomes unwell with flu-like symptoms within seven days of their return should stay at home and contact their GP by phone or ring NHS Direct on 0845 4647. Individuals will be assessed and, if necessary, testing and treatment will be provided. The Health Protection Agency will identify any close contacts as part of the assessment, and they will be given advice and, if necessary, antiviral drugs.
General infection control practices and good respiratory and hand hygiene can help to reduce transmission of all viruses, including human swine influenza. This includes:
* Covering your nose and mouth when coughing or sneezing, preferably with a tissue;
* Disposing of dirty tissues promptly and carefully;
* Maintaining good basic hygiene - 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 children follow this advice.