30/07/2009

Disorder Fears If Swine Flu Crisis Grows

There have been dire warnings of civil disorder and a breakdown in the basic infrastructure if the worst fears over the imminent swine flu pandemic are realised.

NI health officials have briefed hospitals to be prepared for overwhelming volumes of swine flu cases and associated civil disorder.

Their 90-page guidance document - which is on the Department of Health website - said that in the worst case scenario, hospitals may be unable to cope with the high volume of cases and as a result, special security plans could be required to deal with potential civil disturbance and violence.

The document also said that special plans should be in place to deal with possible food and fuel shortages and that all non-essential NHS services may have to be suspended.

Trusts are told they will need to "work with local district councils, police and private security providers in developing their security plans" and to be prepared for violence against staff and to make special plans for guarding limited supplies of medicine and vaccines.

Figures suggest that up to 4% of the population may actually require hospital admission and that a quarter of hospital admissions may require the highest category of intensive care and up to 2.5% of those infected may die, it suggested.
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With an expected 22% of influenza cases anticipated during the virus' "peak week" of a pandemic wave, then hospital capacity may be exceeded.

Therefore, routine surgery and outpatient services may have to cease in the earlier stages of the pandemic, but as "events escalate, it may be necessary to cancel all elective clinical functions and concentrate on expanding management of influenza emergency and non-influenza emergency and urgent/time-critical cases only".

Stockpiling is also being advised so that a continued supply is available during the pandemic.

Hospital trusts are advised to make provision by increasing holdings in relation to fuel, electricity, food, bed linen, dressings, ventilator tubing, syringes, surgical stitches, gowns, and pharmaceuticals.

Meanwhile, it emerged yesterday that another swine flu sufferer is now critically ill in the Republic of Ireland, making a total of two patients now at serious risk of dying from the virus.

The State's health chiefs are now warning people with underlying medical problems that they are at risk and also said that some 276 cases of swine flu were confirmed in Ireland by Wednesday.

Chief Medical Officer Dr Tony Holohan said they now expect deaths from the disease in the coming weeks and months.

As well as the two being treated in intensive care, another 10 flu victims also remain in hospital with the illness.

See: Irish Swine Flu Cases Increase By 500 Per Day

(BMcC/JM)

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