Suffolk Swine flu: Why weren't we told?

MEDICS in Ipswich are today on alert after the first case of swine flu was confirmed in the town.

MEDICS in Ipswich are today on alert after the first case of swine flu was confirmed in the town.

An Ipswich patient was found to be suffering from the virus on Wednesday, bringing the total number of definite cases in Suffolk to 13 since the outbreak began in May, with three more confirmed yesterday.

The World Health Organisation upgraded the threat level of swine flu to a global pandemic earlier this month.

But until the case was confirmed in Ipswich it appeared most of Suffolk had escaped the virus because NHS Suffolk had failed to inform the public of the situation in the county.

Yesterday Ipswich Borough Council confirmed that the victim is a family member of two Ipswich Borough Council employees, both of whom are currently working from home.

A spokesman for the council: “They have been working at home since the family member developed symptoms and swine flu was first suspected.

Most Read

“Both members of staff, who are based in Grafton House, are feeling fine and have no symptoms at all.

“The decision to ask them to work from home was taken purely as a precautionary measure.

“The family member was seen by a doctor after returning from holiday abroad.”

The 13 Suffolk cases, including one in the Waveney area which falls under NHS Great Yarmouth and Waveney's remit, have been confirmed through laboratory testing by the Health Protection Agency. NHS Suffolk said it could not say which districts had been affected because of patient confidentially, but stressed they were all isolated cases.

It said those affected have been given antiviral treatment and have recovered, or are in the process of recovering.

Dr Brian Keeble, consultant in public health medicine at NHS Suffolk, said: “We are continuing work to slow the spread of the disease and to put in place arrangements with partner organisations to ensure that Suffolk is well-placed to deal with this new infection, including the supply of antivirals to treat people if they become ill.”

Anyone who has flu-like symptoms should stay at home, limit the contact they have with other people and telephone their GP or NHS Direct. They will then be assessed and given treatment if necessary.

Do you know someone affected by swine flu? Contact The Evening Star newsdesk on 01473 324788 or e-mail starnews@eveningstar.co.uk.

A SUFFOLK health campaigner today criticised NHS Suffolk for failing to inform people about swine flu outbreaks in the county.

Health bosses did not tell the public about the 12 confirmed cases of the virus in its area until contacted by The Evening Star yesterday.

In other NHS areas people have been kept up-to-date about the spread of swine flu through media releases.

Prue Rush, a patient campaigner, said in ongoing public health situations it was better to let people know the facts.

“They are treating us like we are not very sensible,” she said.

“It lessens the chances that people will believe in the bodies that are supposed to be in charge of this.

“I think it would be much better if they kept the public informed. It would make people aware that the risk in this area has increased and could make people more aware of the need for hand hygiene.”

A spokeswoman for NHS Suffolk said: “Cases in Suffolk have been very low. It is not part of our normal practice to inform the media about every single case of meningitis or measles unless there is a need for the public to take action to protect their health.

“We have treated swine flu no differently because there are such low numbers and have encouraged people through press releases to clean their hands and carefully dispose of tissues.

“There is a regional update on the numbers of cases for the East of England every day on the Health Protection Agency website.”

NHS Great Yarmouth and Waveney let its residents know about its three confirmed cases of swine flu through press releases, as did NHS bodies in Cambridgeshire and Essex.

Swine Flu

Swine influenza is a disease in pigs. The virus currently transmitting among people is now generally referred to as swine flu, although the origin of the disease is still under investigation.

The outbreak of swine flu has now become a pandemic, which means it has spread globally.

The virus has spread quickly because it is a new type of virus that few, if any, people have resistance to.

Human infection with swine flu (H1N1) viruses has been confirmed in Mexico, the US, Canada, the UK, and many other countries.

A flu pandemic is a natural event that occurs from time to time. Last century, there were flu pandemics in 1918, 1957 and 1968, when millions of people died across the world.

It is possible that the current swine flu pandemic will cause more illness and many more deaths than ordinary flu.

SOURCE: NHS

The single most effective way to stop or slow the spread of diseases such as swine flu is to prevent the spread of germs.

Wash your hands regularly with soap and water, or an antibacterial hand gel if you are out and about, and cover your mouth with a tissue if you cough or sneeze, disposing of the tissue immediately.

You should also think about what you would do if you and your family became ill. Who could you rely on for support, such as to collect medicines or food for you?

The NHS's simple advice is: CATCH IT. BIN IT. KILL IT.

GLOBALLY there have now been more than 55,800 laboratory-confirmed cases of swine flu, with 238 deaths.

More than 3,590 cases have been confirmed in the UK.

Become a Supporter

This newspaper has been a central part of community life for many years. Our industry faces testing times, which is why we're asking for your support. Every contribution will help us continue to produce local journalism that makes a measurable difference to our community.

Become a Supporter