IMPORTANT PUBLIC HEALTH INFORMATION SWINE FLU This leaflet contains important information to help you and your family - KEEP IT SAFE
What is Swine Flu and how is it different from ordinary flu? Swine Flu is a respiratory disease and has some elements of a virus found in pigs. There is no evidence of this disease circulating in pigs in Australia and scientists are investigating its origins. Swine Flu has been confirmed in a number of countries and it is spreading from human to human, which could lead to what is referred to as a pandemic flu outbreak. Pandemic flu is different from ordinary flu because it’s a new flu virus that appears in humans and spreads very quickly from person to person worldwide.The World Health Organisation (WHO) is closely monitoring cases of swine flu globally to see whether this virus develops into a pandemic. 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. What are the symptoms of Swine Flu? Some of the symptoms are the sudden onset of fever, cough or shortness of breath. Other symptoms can include headache, sore throat, tiredness, aching muscles, chills, sneezing, runny nose or loss of appetite. How does Swine Flu spread? Flu viruses are made up of tiny particles that can be spread through the droplets that come out of your nose and mouth when you cough or sneeze. When you cough or sneeze without covering your nose and mouth with a tissue, those droplets can spread and others will be at risk of breathing them in. If you cough or sneeze into your hand, those droplets and the germs in them are then easily spread from your hand to any hard surfaces that you touch, and they can live on those surfaces for some time. Everyday items such as door handles, computer keyboards, mobile and ordinary phones and the TV remote control are all common surfaces where flu viruses can be found. If other people touch these surfaces and then touch their faces, the germs can enter their body and they can become infected. That’s how all cold and flu viruses, including swine flu, are passed on from person to person.
What have the Authorities been doing to prepare? Authorities have been planning for a flu pandemic for a number of years, and the plan has been identified as one of the best by the World Health Organisation. While the current situation is serious, there’s good reason for us to be confident that we can deal with it. Thanks to the work of scientists who have studied previous pandemics, we know more now about treatments and how to stop the virus spreading than ever before. We also have a good stockpile of antiviral drugs (including Tamiflu® and Relenza®) and we are planning to increase this. Antiviral drugs are not a cure, but they help you to recover if taken within 48 hours of symptoms developing, by:
• Reducing the length of time you are ill.
• Reducing the potential for serious complications, such as pneumonia.
Is there a vaccination I can have? Not at this stage. This type of flu is not the same as seasonal flu: it involves a completely new type of virus. A vaccine can only be developed when the specific strain has been identified, and it would then take several months to produce. The Federal Government have agreements in place with manufacturers so that we can get stocks as soon as possible after a vaccine has been developed. What can I do to protect myself and others against flu? The best thing you can do to protect yourself is to follow good hygiene practices. These will help to slow the spread of the virus and will be the single most effective thing you can do to protect yourself and others from infection.
When you cough or sneeze it is especially important to follow the rules of good hygiene to prevent the spread of germs:
• Use clean tissues to cover your mouth and nose when you cough and sneeze.
• Wash your hands with soap and hot water or a sanitiser gel often.
There’s a simple way to remember this: CATCH IT, BIN IT, KILL IT Do I need a face mask? You may have seen face masks being given out to the public in other countries on the news. However, the available scientific evidence shows that these basic face masks don’t protect people from becoming infected. The best way to protect yourself and stop the spread of flu viruses is by using and disposing of tissues and washing your hands, as explained earlier. What else can I do? There are some other useful actions you can take now to prepare in case swine flu becomes more widespread: Set up a network of ‘flu friends’- Flu friends are neighbours, friends and relatives who can help you if you get ill. For example, they could collect medicines, food and other supplies for you, so that you don’t have to leave home if you are ill. Keep up to date with the latest information on swine flu and follow public health advice and instructions - If swine flu spreads, you need to keep informed so that you know what else you can do to protect yourself and your family. As the situation changes, you should keep up to date by watching TV, listening to the radio, checking the internet and looking out for announcements in the press. With all of us following precautions, we can reduce the spread of Swine Flu. USEFUL CONTACTS:
• Information from the Influenza Hotline Phone: 180 2007.
• Immunisation Section, SA Department of Health
Phone 8226 7177 www.dh.sa.gov.au/pehs or www.fightflu.gov.au
• For additional information on seasonal flu
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