Swine flu high alert

PUBLISHED: 18:05 06 May 2009 | UPDATED: 16:38 25 August 2010

AS SWINE flu hit a school just four miles away, health workers were on high alert in anticipation of the pandemic spreading.

AS SWINE flu hit a school just four miles away, health workers were on high alert in anticipation of the pandemic spreading.

Five pupils at Alleyn's School, in Dulwich, were diagnosed with the H1N1 virus over the bank holiday, prompting hospital staff to keep raised awareness of patients with flu symptoms.

The outbreak, caused by a pupil's visit to the US in April, was discovered just three days after Prime Minister Gordon Brown visited nearby Beckenham to assure the nation it was "well prepared" against the virus.

The school was closed for seven days on advice from the Health Protection Agency as teachers battled to answer endless calls from parents asking for advice.

Richard Moss, Head of Risk Management at Greenwich Teaching Primary Care Trust told the Times that every hospital has a flu pandemic handling plan.

He said: "The problem is that there can be no specific vaccine for a pandemic virus until it has happened.

"It will not be possible to develop a vaccine until after the specific pandemic virus strain has been identified. This is likely to be after the first wave of the pandemic has subsided.

"In the meanwhile there will be anti-viral drugs to give out."

In November, Greenwich Teaching PCT successfully bid for some £10,000 from NHS London to spend on storage for pandemic-fighting equipment.

The priority for the PCT during an outbreak, said Mr Moss, was to protect NHS workers.

He added: "It is mostly about prioritising staff. The main issues are prevention and ensuring that those jobs are given staff that are key in trying to care for the sickest.

"It's best to keep people away from hospitals if we can so we can care for the sickest."

Alleyn's, a fee paying school that takes pupils from boroughs across London, refused to say whether the five students affected came from Bromley, Bexley or Greenwich.

However a spokesman for NHS London said that the Health Protection Agency would "follow the trail" of the virus by tracing friends and close contacts of the five pupils.

On Tuesday, it reported that some 13 cases of Swine Flu had been found in the capital.

Pupils at Alleyn's School, have all been issued Tamiflu drugs as a precaution, though the drugs are not available over the counter.

The government is supposed to be able to keep enough tablet-form anti-viral drugs available for 50 per cent of the population, as well as a stockpile of protective equipment.

The Department of Health predicted that if infection rates hit 35 per cent, there could be approximately 470 clinical cases per GP practice at the peak of the pandemic.

The figures guiding the national framework also predict the death toll for a population the size of Bexley's could be around 400, along with more than 600 hospital admissions.

The department of Health swine flu hotline is 0800 151 3513, or for more information visit


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