Flu Pandemic Policy (Avian Flu, Swine Flu)
Avian influenza is a disease that affects birds. It can be carried by wild birds, though often it does not make them ill. It can therefore be easily transmitted across country borders. The disease is caused by a class of viruses; the infection caused by the virus sub-type H5N1 is very dangerous to domestic poultry in particular. The disease has reached several European countries.
H5N1 avian influenza is very difficult to transmit from birds to humans, and such transmission has occurred almost entirely within those working closely with poultry. Human to human transmission is virtually unknown. The main worries as far as the UK is concerned are:
- that the disease reaches the UK, and poultry is affected;
- that there is bird-man transmission within the poultry industry causing the illness in humans;
- that the virus H5N1 mutates (probably by infecting a human already infected with one of the human influenza viruses) and the mutated virus is then easily transmissible between humans. There would be no "inbuilt resistance" to such a virus which could, though not necessarily, cause a severe and dangerous "human-type influenza" with a high mortality rate. A pandemic, which occurs from time to time with human influenza, would then be likely.
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 the UK.
If swine flu is confirmed in a number of countries and spreads from human to human, this could lead to what is referred to as a pandemic flu outbreak.
The World Health Organization (WHO) closely monitors cases of swine flu and other types of flu globally to see whether these viruses develop into a pandemic.
The WHO operates a 6 level system of alerts in which level 6 indicates a global pandemic.
The view of the majority of medical scientists is that a global pandemic of a new flu virus such as avian flu or swine flu is increasingly likely and probably inevitable.
In the event of receiving advice from medical/governmental sources that a flu pandemic is imminent, the school intends to:
inform parents promptly of the situation and the school's response;
- update the school's response regularly in line with the emerging situation;
- use the school's website and other appropriate means to inform parents, so that advice is prompt and easily accessible;
- act strictly on the generic advice given to the national population by the Chief Medical Officer and appropriate government agencies, such as the Health Protection Agency;
- act strictly on the specific advice to schools given by the Medical Officers in Schools Association (MOSA) and by the school's own medical officer.
In preparing for a possible pandemic situation the school will act to:
- ensure appropriate information and reminders with regard to personal hygiene are on display and announced to pupils
- check sufficient stocks of cleaning products such as tissues, soaps, detergents and alcohol gels are available for use
- monitor very closely updates from the Department of Health and local government with regard to the possible spread of the pandemic within the local area
- ensure that staff who show signs of infection are sent home and that children showing signs of infection are reassured, collected by their parents, and taken home
Every effort will be made to keep the school operating normally but if a decision is made by the Headmaster to close the school, this will be communicated to boys and staff first and then to parents. Daily updates will be made available on the school's website and arrangements in respect of academic work for boys will then ne put into operation.
Staff and pupils are encouraged to note the following general advice which can help prevent the spread of flu:
- Cover your nose and mouth when coughing or sneezing and use a tissue.
- Dispose of dirty tissues, bag them and bin them.
- Maintain good basic hygiene, wash your hands frequently with soap and water and clean hard surfaces regularly (eg door handles, phonesand worktops).
If you feel you have flu-like symptoms:
- Stay home and rest.
- Take medicines such as aspirin, ibuprofen or paracetamol to relieve the symptoms, although children under 16 should not be given aspirin or flu remedies containing aspirin.
- Drink plenty of fluids.
Useful sources of further information can be found at the following websites:
- Department of Health - http://www.dh.gov.uk/,
- Health Protection Agency - www.hpa.org.uk/infections
- MOSA - http://www.mosa.org.uk/
Updated: April 2009