Swine flu suspects urged to call GP, not visit
By Lilian Anekwe
GPs are urging people returning from Mexico or parts of the USA who have flu-like symptoms not to visit surgeries in case they help spread swine flu among vulnerable people. LATEST: Watch the CMO talking to the BBC, Google Map of outbreak, download HPA and other guidance.
Practices have been told to expect to see cases of swine flu in UK patients returning from holiday in Mexico following the outbreak in the country.
The Health Protection Agency has warned GPs that it would be sensible for them to be prepared to see patients who have recently been on holiday in Mexico who may now be developing flu-like symptoms and who fear they may have swine flu.
The outbreak of swine flu, caused by a new variant of the virus H1N1, began over the weekend and at least one hundred people in Mexico are now suspected to have died, with cases also reported in the UK, US, Canada, New Zealand, France, Spain, Israel and Australia.
RCGP chair Professor Steve Field said patients with suspected swine flu should be discouraged from presenting at GP surgeries – and potentially passing on the virus to vulnerable patients.
He said: ‘We'll know a lot more by the end of the week. What we've got to try and do is stop people who've come from Mexico or places where this is prevalent going to their GPs and spreading it amongst vulnerable people. That's really important this week.'
The RCGP and BMA have released joint guidance on dealing with pandemic flu.
The Department of Health are advising patients returning from affected areas who experience symptoms to seek advice from their GP by phone or contact NHS Direct.
Meanwhile the Department of Health insisted it already has sufficient stockpiles of the antiviral Tamiflu to treat half of the population and has placed an order for the remaining half.
Health secretary Alan Johnson said: ‘We have a stockpile of drugs. Tamiflu deals with it once it's started and deals with it very effectively.
‘Once we know what the strain is we will look to find a vaccine to prevent it and we have a pre-agreement for these vaccines to be produced as soon as we decide.'
The HPA have produced a swine flu treatment algorithm for GPs to download.
Joint BMA/RCGP guidance on pandemic flu The Chief Medical Officer speaks to the BBC
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