Swine Flu

A fortnight ago a member of my staff went down with swine flu - he was one of the last people to be tested before the Government switched from seeking to contain the outbreak to treating it.

He was quite unwell for a week, but no more so than if he'd had a dose of 'ordinary' flu.  Thankfully, he's now back in the office and doesn't appear to have passed it onto the rest of us - although I did think about following the Chinese Government's approach and placing him in quarantine!

At the beginning of May I appeared on Any Questions in the week that swine flu first came to the attention of the public.  Then, some were suggesting that its potential threat was being overplayed, but I disagreed.

It's increasingly clear that, while this new strain of flu does not in the main appear to be life-threatening, it was right for the authorities to be cautious.  In West Sussex, there has been a distinct increase in the last two weeks of people contacting their doctors with complaints of flu-like symptoms.

Nationally, there have been 17 swine flu-related deaths in the UK.  The Health Secretary has stated that there could be over 100,000 cases per day by the end of August.  And it has also been estimated that nearly one in eight workers are likely to be kept at home by swine flu in the next few weeks, putting pressure on many businesses across the country.

This week the Royal College of GPs has criticised the Government's response to swine flu, expressing concern about conflicting advice to doctors and patients.

Every year around 12,500 people die of flu in England and Wales.  We can be optimistic that a terrible pandemic like the one in 1918 which killed 40 million to 50 million people worldwide is not in prospect.  There is clearly no need to panic.  But the impact on the workplace and the NHS means that it is, and was, right to take this threat seriously.

Michelle Taylor