Swine flu jab offer to all

EVERY person living in East Anglia will be offered a vaccine against swine flu as it is predicted one in three will be struck down with the virus in the next few months.

EVERY person living in East Anglia will be offered a vaccine against swine flu as it is predicted one in three will be struck down with the virus in the next few months.

A vaccination to protect those against the now rapidly-spreading virus will next month be offered to people who are considered “at risk and vulnerable” and will eventually be given to everyone.

Health professionals are expecting a “very busy” summer with a swine flu outbreak imminent - hitting between an estimated one in three and one in five people in the region.

However, although the virus has started to spread quickly it is not currently regarded as dangerous with the prediction that a “handful” of people could die but these will more than likely have underlying medical conditions.

The news comes as four workers from Aviva in Surrey Street, Norwich, were confirmed as having contracted the virus yesterday a day after a “small number” of employees from Royal Bank of Scotland (RBS) Mortgages offices in the city were struck down with it.

Most people who have experienced swine flu so far have reported symptoms that are actually milder than seasonal flu symptoms with aches and high temperatures which usually subside within a few days.

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Dr Alistair Lipp, director of public health for NHS Yarmouth and Waveney, said every person in the county should be following guidelines in case they contract swine flu.

“There will be a lot of people who get swine flu in the coming months,” he said. “There is no doubt about how busy we will be. For most people this will mean a few days of flu-like symptoms and then they will be on the mend. Some people will be worse than others while some may not even know they have it.

“At the moment the virus has not turned nasty but constant surveillance is taking place in case this does happen. So far the deaths from swine flu have been because of other pre-existing illnesses - an average healthy person is not at high risk at this stage. We are looking at a handful of deaths in Norfolk if things carry on in the same way.

“We have issued some strict advice that people should take and really we all need to be sensible about this. There will be a huge impact on work places but if advice is followed we can minimise disruptions and try and limit the spread of the virus.”

At the moment each individual who is suspected of having swine flu is offered an anti-viral drug and given a range of self help techniques either by an NHS help line or their GP.

This entails resting at home until the symptoms subside and having as little contact with other people as possible. Everyone is advised to enlist the help of a “flu friend” who can help them get medication should they fall ill.

Symptoms of swine flu are broadly the same as those of ordinary flu such as sudden fever, cough, headaches, chills, aching muscles, loss of appetite and changes in body temperature.

A vaccination - which is now known simply as the swine flu vaccine - has been developed and from next month will be offered to people through their GP surgeries.

Those who are considered vulnerable will be offered the vaccine first. High risk groups are people with chronic lung, heart, liver, kidney or neurological diseases; those with diabetes; patients who have had drug treatment for asthma for the past three years; pregnant women and people over 65 or under five.

Mr Lipp said: “The vaccine is being delivered now and will be offered next month. There will be a priority system for the vaccine, much like there is with seasonal flu vaccines. Those at risk go first and then everyone will be offered it. We hope this will be by the end of the year but no one can say if this will definitely happen.

“Each person will be given two doses over a period of a couple of weeks. No vaccine can guarantee 100pc immunity but this will prevent a lot of people from getting the virus.”

Swine flu is different from seasonal flu in that most serious illnesses have been in younger age groups. Dr Lipp explained that this is likely because elderly people could have built up a certain degree of immunity because variants that appeared in previous flu outbreaks are present in the current swine flu that is circulating.

As reported the biggest outbreak of swine flu in Norfolk so far erupted at the Royal Bank of Scotland Mortgages office in Amsterdam Place.

It is believed up to 40 employees were sent home on Monday afternoon while health bosses gave the company advice on how to deal with the virus. And three more Norfolk schools were hit with swine flu. It is suspected that one member of staff and one pupil has the virus at Stalham High School in Brumstead Road, Stalham. There is also a suspected outbreak at Northgate School in Yarmouth and St Nicholas School, also in Yarmouth.

On July 2 guidelines changed on how the virus was dealt with due to the increase in cases. The Department of Health and the Health Protection Agency issued guidance about swine flu no longer needing to be confirmed by laboratory testing.

It means the number of confirmed cases is hard to identify, with many people in workplaces or schools displaying symptoms of the virus but who have not necessarily been tested.