Mexican Swine Flu outbreak spreads

UK Health experts are closely monitoring the developing Swine Flu situation in Mexico City. Deaths from the outbreak of the are rising rapidly with so far up 81 reported dead from pneumonia associated with the infection of the flu virus.

No cases have so far been reported in Europe, although 8 have been recorded in Southern California. As a precautionary measure a Male crew member returning from Mexico on a British Airways flight has been hospitalised at Northwick Park after feeling unwell with 'flu' symptoms. He reported as responding well to treatment.

The Health Protection Agency (HPA) said it was working with the government to assess any threat posed to public health in the UK and added that the outbreak needed “further investigation and vigilience”

Swine flu is a respiratory disease that that does not usually infect humans. Occasional cases do occur affecting people in close contact with pigs.

It is a considerable worry that this strain appears to be passing easily from human to human giving it the potential to spread rapidly. In 2008 a different strain of Swine Flu that only affected animal showed that it shared genes with Avian Flu, highlighting that flu virus's are constantly evolving.

Public reaction in Mexico City states that a rather confused situation exists with some Health Workers claiming a higher death toll and a general sense of fear starting to emerge. Some public events have been cancelled and some concern has been expressed over the availability of supplies of Masks and even medical supplies should the outbreak develop further.

The citizens of Mexico City are also complaining of mixed messages from Government and employers, adding to the strain and worry.

WHO Director-general Margaret Chan said this Swine Flu strain did have "pandemic potential" and that it would be very closely monitored, but that it was far too early as yet to say whether one would actually occur.

The HPA also confirmed that Swine Flu was treatable with antiviral drugs such as Tamiflu and Relenza, which the Government holds stock piles of as part of its Avian Flu Response Plan.

"The HPA and the NHS have systems in place which will alert public health authorities of any unusual strain circulating in the UK," it said.

Britons are not currently being advised to avoid travelling to affected areas of Mexico and the US.

However, the Foreign Office recommends that anyone visiting those destinations - or who has recently returned - should consult a doctor if they experience flu-like symptoms.

To prevent the spread of illness, the HPA advised people to cover their nose and mouth when coughing or sneezing, to throw away dirty tissues promptly and carefully, and to wash hands and surfaces which are regularly touched.

Continuity Forum Comment

The Continuity Forum has for some time been working alongside Government and business to help build the focus and awareness of BCM and Pandemic Planning. Recent research shows that the focus though has been dropping amidst the pressures seen more widely. This years Cabinet Office research showed only slightly more than half of our larger organisations had implemented BCM planning with only a third stating their planning was moderately robust or better. Within smaller organisations the level of preparation is far lower with Continuity Forum research suggesting that fewer than 1 in 10 across the UK have plans.

Organisations needing help or advice should contact us directly.

For more information on our Pandemic Summit being held on 26th June please click the link on the front page.