Human swine influenza
Guidance for health and safety professionals
Swine Influenza is a highly contagious acute respiratory disease which is caused by one of several swine influenza A viruses. Human cases of swine influenza A (H1N1) virus have recently been confirmed across many countries worldwide. Because it's a new virus, no one will have immunity to it and everyone could be at risk of catching it. This includes healthy adults as well as older people, young children and those with existing medical conditions.
Symptoms are similar to those of seasonal influenza and include; fever, respiratory tract illnesses, headache and muscle aches. Some cases have also experienced vomiting and diarrhoea and there have been some fatalities, though not in the Asia Pacific region.
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'. Current testing has indicated that anti-virals can be used to treat the virus.
Protection for the General Public and In The Workplace
Currently, RS is not aware of any guidance which suggests the use of PPE including respirators for use by the general public in the event of pandemic influenza. Effective and strict hand hygiene is one of the most important practices aimed at reducing the transmission of infectious diseases. It is suggested to be good practice to follow respiratory and hand hygiene practices as listed by the Departments of Health in many countries:
- Always carry tissues
- Use clean tissues to cover your mouth and nose when you cough and sneeze
- Bin the tissues after one use
- Wash your hands with soap and hot water or a sanitising wipes often
To minimise transmission in the workplace, surfaces such as door handles should be cleaned regularly and thoroughly with cleaning products.
Employees experiencing flu-like symptoms should avoid going to work and seek medical attention, to further reduce the risk of transmission.
Use of Health & Safety products
Further to this the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) guidance on 24 April 2009, advised that until further notice healthcare facilities should use the CDC's October 2006 "Interim Guidance on Planning for the Use of Surgical Masks and Respirators in Healthcare Settings during an Influenza Pandemic". In addition, they specified use of respirators for suspected or confirmed cases of swine influenza where personnel are engaged in aerosol generating procedures, providing direct patient care or processing, or performing diagnostic tests on clinical specimens or performing viral isolation.
RS advises that the information contained on this page is advisory only and is given in good faith.