The issue of Swine Flu is causing concern to some of our overseas students. We would like to highlight the fact that the vast majority of swine flu cases that have occurred in the UK have been non-severe, and patients have recovered within a week. Of the few fatal cases that have occurred, the patient has had existing health problems.
National health authorities are asking people to keep this pandemic in context. Every year in the UK, around 100,000 people die from ordinary flu. Again, fatal cases generally involve the elderly and people with other health complications.
Here is the most up-to-date information from the NHS:
As with normal flu, symptoms of swine flu include:
- weakness and fatigue
- aching muscles and joints
- sore throat
- runny nose
Other symptoms may include:
- Diarrhoea and upset stomach
- Loss of appetite
As with any sort of influenza, how bad and how long the symptoms last will depend on treatment and the patient’s individual circumstances. People in generally good health who contract the virus should recover fully in a short period of time.
The elderly, the very young and those with existing health problems are known to be at higher risk than most people.
Very few students will fit into these higher risk categories. Due to their age and general level of health and fitness, if infected, they should recover from the symptoms in roughly the same amount of time as if infected with the ordinary flu virus.
There are a number of steps you can take to reduce the risk of getting flu and help stop the spread of the virus.
- Always carry tissues – catching the germs in a tissue could help limit the spread of the virus
- Cover your mouth and nose when coughing and sneezing, using a tissue
- Throw the tissue away quickly and carefully
- Avoid touching your nose and mouth
- Wash your hands regularly with soap and water, especially if you are sneezing/blowing your nose often (Many people in the UK have normal allergies and it is not uncommon to see/hear people sneezing) to reduce the spread of germs from your hands to your face or to other people.
- Clean hard surfaces (like door handles and remote controls) frequently with a normal cleaning product
- Have adequate sleep, eat a nutritious diet and keep physically active
- Avoid using air conditioning and keep windows open to ventilate rooms
- Avoid close contact with anyone who may be ill
- Know your NHS number (this will be in NHS letters or prescriptions) (Foreign students will be allocated an NHS number on registering with a GP
- If you do become ill and think you have swine flu your local GP will be able to tell you if you have swine flu over the phone.If you are staying with a host family, they can contact their GP for you.
- If you are still concerned, you can call: NHS Direct on 0845 4647 in England or The Swine Flu Information Line on 0800 1 513 513 (freephone)
If your GP tells you that you have contracted swine flu:
- Stay at home and do not leave the house – this will help stop you spreading the virus to other people. If you are staying in a residence or student house you will need to quarantine yourself to avoid infecting other students
- Your doctor may give you anti-viral medication
- Ask a healthy relative or friend to visit your GP to pick up a document entitling you to antiviral medication. (and pick up food shopping for you if necessary)
- They will then need to pick the medication up at a collection point your GP will advise on (a local pharmacy or similar).
- In the meantime, take paracetamol-based cold remedies to reduce fever and other symptoms, drink plenty of fluids and get lots of rest.
- Do not go into your GP surgery, or to a hospital, as you may spread the virus to others.
Although face masks have been given out in Mexico, there is no actual evidence that proves wearing a face mask will stop you getting the virus. It is more effective to use tissues when sneezing and coughing and wash your hands regularly.
A healthy diet and vitamin supplements may help boost your immune system to help protect against any kind of illness.
Students can speak to Student Services staff in school for advice.