Swine flu arrives in North Devon

THE swine flu pandemic has reached North Devon, with people already being treated with the anti-viral capsule, Tamiflu. Devon Primary Care Trust (PCT) is urging people to find a flu friend to help them cope before they come down with the illness. The Tr

THE swine flu pandemic has reached North Devon, with people already being treated with the anti-viral capsule, Tamiflu.

Devon Primary Care Trust (PCT) is urging people to find a "flu friend" to help them cope before they come down with the illness.

The Trust would not reveal the number of those people being treated - or their location within North Devon and Torridge.

It said that increasing numbers of people were turning up at GP practices or local hospitals, but they risked spreading the virus to others by doing so.


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People are being advised to establish a network of relatives, friends or neighbours to collect anti-viral medication, food and other supplies if they catch swine flu.

Steve Brown, assistant director of public health at Devon Primary Care Trust, said: "The clear advice from us is that people should not attend walk-in centres, NHS hospitals or GP practices in person if they have symptoms," he said.

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"Instead they should call the swine flu information line 08001 513513 or visit www.nhs.uk where they can check any symptoms online.

"People should only call NHS Direct 0845 46 47 or their GP if they have used these information sources first."

The request comes as the Government announced that people with swine flu will continue to be treated with anti-viral drugs although the approach has been modified.

It will now be up to the GP to prescribe anti-virals on diagnosis - rather than wait for the results of swab tests.

Dr Mark Kealy, consultant with the South West Peninsula Health Protection Unit, said that although the total in the South West was "pretty low" in comparison with the rest of the country, health professionals were seeing a steady increase week by week and that over time, it was inevitable that the bug would get round to local communities.

He said: "The treatment-only approach has been introduced ahead of the likely biggest surge of cases in the autumn and winter. It's hard to predict the impact then - we hope the virus remains mild, but it may undergo some sort of change and prompt more severe illness.

"If it does, that's exactly the scenario we've been planning for the last few years with NHS and local agency colleagues, so there are extensive plans in place."

The Trust has issued the following "catch it, bin it, kill it" advice:

* Always cover your nose and mouth with a tissue when coughing or sneezing.

* Dispose of dirty tissues promptly and carefully.

* Maintain good basic hygiene, for example washing hands frequently with soap and warm water.

* Clean hard surfaces, such as door handles, frequently using a normal cleaning product.

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