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Dr Susanna Kent - Swine flu update - 23 June

We are now in the grips of a pandemic. Not only that, but we are coming into the season where seasonal flu and other viral infections are more common as people huddle together and close doors and thus transmit viruses more readily to each other.

- Teach your children to wash their hands frequently.  Model this behaviour yourself.
- Teach your children not to touch their face  (or suck their thumbs)  Do this yourself.
- Use tissues for sneezing and coughing.
- Sneeze or cough into your elbow if you don't have a tissue.
- Think carefully about going to public places where there is likely to be lots of people in close contact.

Get an emergency plan for you and your family

The Ministry of Health has a pandemic emergency plan.  You and your family also need an emergency plan.

You need to think about the following things:

1.  Who looks after your children if you get sick?  Can your partner take time off work to do this?  Do you have relatives or neighbours who could take care of your children?

2.  Do you have enough food in the house for a week?  Stock up on soups or make them now and freeze them. Get fruit juice so you can dilute it (1 part fruit juice to 4 parts of water) and you can use it for children or yourself. Do you have plenty of paracetamol, ibuprofen  (syrup for children) and tissues, as well as normal supplies of medication e.g. asthma inhalers.  Often asthma gets worse with the flu.

If your child is sick with flu like symptoms:
Ring your GP so you can speak to your GP or practice nurse. Get advice from them. Flu-like symptoms can also mimic early meningitis so make sure you get advice. We do not want you sitting at home with a sick child thinking that no one wants to hear from you. Please make sure you get advice.

Also many people cannot tell the difference between influenza (the flu) and common colds. The flu is a serious illness with high temperature, headache, cough, extreme fatigue, muscle aches and pains and sore throat. The common cold has runny nose, sore throat and occasional aches and cough.

Ring Healthline (0800 611 116 - 24 hours a day) and you will get to speak to a registered nurse. At present they are also recruiting GPs to staff this phoneline.

Tamiflu  (oseltamivir)
This is a drug that can reduce the symptoms of the flu, including swine flu. You have to take it within the first 48 hours of symptoms for maximal effect. You can get it on prescription or from May 1st you can buy it at the pharmacy but only if you have the flu. The cost is approx $70.00.