BRIEFING ON FLU
Information on flu, particularly on Avian
flu and a potential Pandemic Flu, is changing daily and
for detailed up to date information it is best to check
on the following websites that are updated regularly.
They contain information on flu and what causes it, the
potential for an outbreak and common questions and answers.
Ordinary, or seasonal `flu
occurs every year during the winter months and can affect
up to about 10 per cent of the population. For most people
it’s an unpleasant infection, but for the very young
and very old, and for people with long-term illness, seasonal
‘flu can be more serious.
Annual vaccination is available for these
groups of people who are at risk of serious illness from
seasonal flu – that’s the campaign featured
on these pages. This routine flu vaccine does not protect
against other forms of `flu below.
Bird or avian `flu is
currently circulating in some South East Asian countries
and lately a few Eastern and Southern European countries.
This form of ‘flu, a strain called H5N1, affects poultry
and wildfowl, and has also caused the deaths of around 60
people in Asia who have had direct contact with infected
birds. It was recently found in a parrot held in a quarantine
facility in Essex.
At this time, the avian ‘flu virus
cannot cause influenza across a whole population because
it is not transmitted person to person.
If avian or another ‘flu changes
into an entirely new strain which can spread easily among
people, then we may face what’s called an influenza
pandemic, affecting most countries in the world.
Pandemic `flu occurred
three times in last century. It’s been 37 years since
the last pandemic ‘flu, and there is concern there
may be another one soon.
Scientists estimate that pandemic ‘flu
may affect up to a quarter of the population, and it may
be a more serious infection for everyone. Because we don’t
yet know what new strain of ‘flu may cause this pandemic,
we don’t know what age groups may be affected most,
nor can we prepare a vaccine in advance.
When we do know the strain, the Government
will start work with the drug industry immediately on developing
a vaccine, and will immunise everyone as soon as they can.
As another important measure, drugs called antivirals have
been ordered in bulk which will help reduce the effects
of pandemic ‘flu in people affected.
The Department of Health and the World
Health Organisation are monitoring the situation very carefully
and contingency plans are being put in to place.
Bird or avian flu, and the safety
Food Standards Agency advice says that
the current risk of humans catching the disease comes from
being in close contact with poultry that have the disease,
and not through eating poultry.
There have been no reports of people handling
poultry meat getting infected.
The trade of live and dead birds and products
from Romania, Turkey and other affected areas has recently
been banned to reduce the risk of the avian flu virus spreading
and reaching birds in the UK and other countries.
An Emergency Planning Sub Group has been
set up to address the response to a Pandemic Flu Outbreak
should one occur. The Director of Public Health (David Sloan)
is leading on this and the Group includes representatives
of LBH, PCT, Learning Trust, Health Protection agency, Fire
Authority and Police.
Environmental Health is keeping an overview
of developments on avian flu and would be informed by the
HPA, FSA or DEFRA of any significant changes to current
advice and able to act. They have drafted an advice article
for Hackney Today.
Head of Environmental Health
0208 356 4902