Results are pending on six further possible cases of swine flu in Northern Ireland, while the Health Minister has moved once again to reassure the public.
Michael McGimpsey explained that Northern Ireland currently has a stockpile of antivirals to cover half the population and steps are in place to |increase this to treat up to 80% of the population.
In addition, he said that the Department of Health, Social Services and Public Safety has a sleeping contract in place with manufacturers of a vaccine for swine flu which will ensure that Northern Ireland is able to access the required medication in the event of a pandemic.
The number of negative cases to date in Northern Ireland is 36 with |no-one diagnosed with the virus.
Mr McGimpsey continued: “At this point I want again to reassure the public that we have no confirmed cases and we are well prepared for any cases that may emerge.
“We must take some reassurance from the fact that, to date, anyone who has contracted the virus outside of Mexico has had a relatively mild flu, similar to that of seasonal flu and that swine flu appears to respond well to treatment with antivirals.
“We should, however, not be complacent. No-one can say for certain how this virus may change or if the situation will worsen.
“The public can be assured that government is taking this issue seriously. I will continue to monitor the situation closely, working with ministerial colleagues in other UK administrations and in the Republic of Ireland.”
Acting Chief Medical Officer Dr Elizabeth Mitchell said the main message to the public is to remain prepared for a potential pandemic — but stressed that people should not be alarmed.
“Anyone who has travelled to Mexico or other affected areas and develops flu-like illness should stay at home to limit contact with others and seek medical advice from a GP,” she said.
“As part of our public information campaign, people in Northern Ireland should expect to see the door drop leaflets come through their letterboxes from the end of this week.
“The public can take simple but effective measures to protect themselves by covering their noses and mouths when they cough and sneeze and then put their tissue in a bin and wash their hands.”
In addition to the public information campaign, the department has also been working closely with the British Medical Association to draw up a set of guidelines for clinical professionals on the management of swine flu.
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