Grave digging training for flu pandemic

EMERGENCY plans are being drawn up for a potential winter swine flu outbreak in the Great Yarmouth borough which could infect as much as half the population - including training people to take on grave digging roles.

EMERGENCY plans are being drawn up for a potential winter swine flu outbreak in the Great Yarmouth borough which could infect as much as half the population - including training people to take on grave digging roles.

Staff at Great Yarmouth Borough Council are being trained to take over from their colleagues in other departments should they be struck down with the virus.

And the council's bereavement service is preparing for a dramatic increase in the number of burials it has to deal with, possibly having to deal with hundreds of bodies a week.

Linda Bigg, bereavement services manager, said government health officials were advising local councils that in the event of a pandemic memorial services across the country may have to be cancelled because of the risk of the virus spreading among mourners.


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She added gravestones and other memorials would also have to be postponed in the event of a pandemic.

Staff in other council departments are being trained to take on the bereavement service roles including grave digging, exhuming bodies from graves following the pandemic and dealing with the paperwork involved.

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The preparations are for a worst case scenario in which between 20 and 50pc of the borough's population was struck down with the swine flu.

However, Mrs Bigg said there would be enough space for the dead in the council's six cemeteries in the borough as there were 10,000 vacant spaces.

Mark Burns, head of the council's community services department, said the council was being advised by the Department of Health to expect a second wave of the swine flu virus in January.

The NHS is reminding people to take simple steps to help prevent catching colds and flu based on good respiratory and hand hygiene. Always use a tissue to catch sneezes, bin used tissues, and ensure hands are regularly washed.

Anyone with flu like symptoms should call the National Pandemic Flu Service on 0800 1513100 or 0800 1513200 textphone or go to www.direct.gov.uk/pandemicflu.

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