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Frequently Asked Questions

Please note that the purpose of this page is to publish answers to questions which are specific to Cardiff University and the possible flu pandemic and which have been raised by members of the University community.

Q. How can I contact the Department of Health national flu information line?

A. Following the outbreak of swine flu, a national information line has been activated. It can be accessed on 0800 1 513 513, and also includes latest information on Swine Flu.

Q. What is the flu buddy system?

A. The flu buddy system encourages students to look out for each other, to spot the signs of swine flu, and to help and support each other, if they become unwell with the virus.

The flu buddy will usually be a friend or someone the student can trust. It will be someone the student can keep in touch with and who can help look after them when they feel at their worst during the infection.

More information about the flu buddy system can be found here.

Q. Where can I find reliable non Cardiff University specific information about the possible flu pandemic?

A. About pandemic flu http://www.dh.gov.uk/en/Publichealth/Flu/PandemicFlu/DH_065150 is part of the UK Department of Health web site which also contains a wide range of other flu related information, including details of Swine flu. Other major websites providing flu pandemic and related information are listed in the Quick Links section of this website.

Q. What action is the University taking concerning the spread of Swine flu?

A. The University is monitoring the present situation and will provide further information for staff and students if the situation changes. In the meantime, anyone who has recently travelled to the affected areas and is experiencing influenza-like illness is advised to stay at home to limit contact with others, and seek medical advice from a local health professional or by contacting NHS Direct Wales on 0845 46 47. The overall situation in Wales is being monitored by the National Public Health Service for Wales (NPHS). The University has taken steps to identify risks, seek ways of reducing the spread and prepare for the effects of a potential pandemic flu outbreak. A Pandemic Flu Advisory Group was established in November 2005. The group membership is made up of a representative from each Directorate and the Students Union. Expert advice is provided by colleagues in Occupational, Safety, Health and Environment Unit and from Cardiff Council Emergency Planning Department. The main focus of the group is to monitor preparedness planning across the University and to facilitate effective communication.

Q. Iím a student and I am not registered with a GP where I am living. Is it important that I register with a local doctor?

A. Yes. It is very important that all students take precautionary action and register with a GP to ensure appropriate care and ease of access to antiviral medication is available should it be required. If you are not registered with a GP we strongly advise you to register as soon as possible by:

  1. Contacting the GP and request registration. Click here for a list of GP practices in Cardiff.
  2. If the GP is unable to register you, they should provide you with alternative advice as to where to register.
  3. If you are unable to register contact the NHS Wales Business Service Centre on 01495 332000, where you will be allocated a GP.

If you find difficulties in registering with a GP in Cardiff, please come to the Universityís Health Centre at 47 Park Place and we will assist you in registration.

Q. Iím returning from any area where there is an active pandemic flu, should I return to the University?

A. Following current health guidance there is no reason why any member of staff or student, returning from any affected areas, without any signs and symptoms of Flu cannot return to the University. If the individual returning has any symptoms they should stay at home and follow the current health guidance.

Q. Is it safe to travel to areas affected by Swine flu?

A. Those thinking about travelling to the affected areas should consult the National Public Health Service for Wales website http://www.wales.nhs.uk/sites3/news.cfm?orgid=719&contentid=11992 . This also contains further information about the disease. Another site containing travel information is the British Foreign and Commonwealth Office: www.fco.gov.uk/en

Q. What is Pandemic flu?

According to the World Health Organization an influenza pandemic can be defined as a global epidemic of influenza. It occurs when a new influenza virus emerges and starts spreading in humans a similar way to normal influenza - through coughing and sneezing. Because the virus is new, the human immune system will have little or no pre-existing immunity. People who contract pandemic influenza are thus likely to experience more serious disease than that caused by normal influenza

Swine flu has now been identified in a number of countries, including the UK, and is spreading directly from human to human. The World Health Organisation has raised its alert level to 6. Level 6 means that a disease is pandemic.

This strain of swine influenza contains a combination of genetic material typical to avian, swine and human flu viruses. Transmission of this new swine influenza virus is thought to occur in the same way as seasonal flu.

Testing has shown that the human swine influenza can be treated with the antiviral medication which has been stockpiled by the government.

The UK Government has been planning for a flu pandemic for a number of years. It has set up a swine flu information line on 0800 1 513 513. It has also been distributing a leaflet containing information and advice to every household in the UK. The leaflet can be downloaded here.

Cardiff University has also been preparing for the possibility of a flu pandemic for several years. A University-wide plan has been drawn up which is being put into action as appropriate and is being directed and monitored by the major incident committee.

How worried should I really be about Swine Flu?

Our concern should reflect that of the experts who are seeking to deal with this possible pandemic. The World Health Organisation is the lead responding to the outbreak and they have currently declared a Phase 6.

However it has become clear that the effects of this virus are considered mild, and that most people have recovered without complication and often with nothing more than over the counter cold/flu type medication/remedies.

The guidance states that the symptoms of Swine Flu are just like regular flu. There is a mild temperature/fever, a runny nose and a few aches and pains? How is Swine Flu different?

While the symptoms of Swine Flu are very similar to regular flu, the important difference is that this is new. The body has some immunity to regular flu which enables the body to be more effective in its response to the regular flu. As the Swine Flu is new the body has very little to no immunity to it and therefore a much less efficient response to it and the greater the potential affect of the virus.

What is the significance of a virus going from an animal host to a human host? Is this something we should all be seriously concerned about or media hype?

Our concern should reflect that of the experts who are seeking to deal with this possible pandemic. The World Health Organisation is the lead responding to the outbreak and they have currently declared a Phase 6.

Influenza viruses are commonly circulating in the human and animal environment. Different strains can cause illness in humans, bird and pigs. Humans have some natural immunity to the common strains that are human-to -human influenza. Mixing of human and animal influenza viruses can lead to the development of changed viruses with the ability to cause infection and spread in the human population. There may be little or no immunity in the human population to these new viruses, enabling the infection to spread more easily and increase the affects of the infection on the host.

Is there any vaccine available?

There is a current vaccine under production. There are two companies contracted to produce it. Both require two doses as the required course; however it is believed that significant benefit is obtained after receiving the first dose. Both however are different and they cannot be used together. The licensing has not been approved as yet but the government hope that the vaccine will be available sometime between the middle and end of October for approved use.

Not everyone will be able to be vaccinated at this stage. The government has prioritised the use of the vaccine. Those in the emergency services, those involved in health and social care and those with underlying health conditions that put them at risk will be vaccinated first. There will need to be further receipt of vaccination to immunise the whole population.

Will my GP call me to my surgery to get anti-viral medication to prevent the disease?

The GP does not give out any antiviral medication only prescribe the medication. Currently the anti viral medication is obtained from the hospital or pharmacist in the community. This may change if the pandemic flu becomes substantially worse.

Currently only those individuals who meet the Department of Health criteria are given antiviral medication and this has changed over time. Currently it is up to the clinicianís decision if they offer anti viral medication as even if you have swine flu it may still not be a requirement that you are prescribed anti viral medication.

Alert Levels

The World Health Organisation (WHO) has moved to Alert Level 6 Ė indicating a substantial pandemic risk.
WHO alert phases

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