NHS plans for possible flu outbreak on Shetland and Orkney

Media playback is not supported on this device Sturgeon – ‘new wave of people could be getting bugs’

NHS bosses in Orkney and Shetland have been told to plan for a wave of flu outbreaks across the region.

The Highlands and Islands health board is reporting “a number of confirmed cases of influenza A”.

“New wave of deaths” from the H1N1 virus is being warned and may already be happening.

Scottish First Minister Nicola Sturgeon is also warning that an “epidemic” of infection is already under way in England.

She was speaking at Holyrood after a vote that extended the five-day “code yellow” alert on flu by another 48 hours.

The move is intended to help counter rising flu levels across Scotland.

On Thursday, she said: “Our flu front line reports that we have been struck by a wave of cases and the demand for activity across the country is exceeding capacity in many areas.

“It’s vital that we take all possible action to raise the community resilience to tackle an epidemic.

“This is a very strong step by the health board in support of that wider public health mission.

“I want to see everyone getting immunised against flu and I want to see people continuing to get up to date with their seasonal flu vaccination and advice from the Scottish Government to reduce their chance of becoming ill.

“I also want to encourage pregnant women to take advantage of the free flu vaccinations available for them in their second trimester.

“I want to see people being aware of the signs and symptoms of flu, its signs and symptoms and being able to seek medical advice as soon as possible, whether it’s in person or by phone.”

The Scottish Health Secretary, Shona Robison, said: “We cannot underestimate the severity of the flu crisis.

“Our frontline staff across NHS Orkney and Shetland have been working extremely hard to deliver bedfuls of people’s care, however recent weeks have seen a number of confirmed cases of influenza A and it’s clear that it is spreading and taking hold.

“At the current rate of activity, it is possible we could see an ‘epidemic’ of infection.

“Although a significant number of people have been vaccinated, it is only 70% effective against all strains of flu, so flu season can always get much worse.

“We cannot predict how many more people will contract flu this season, but we do need everyone to be vigilant, to take reasonable steps to avoid catching and spreading flu, especially pregnant women and young children.”

Jenny Murray, of the NHS Orkney and Shetland Boards, said: “It’s bad enough already. But we’re gearing up for more high numbers and we’re calling on our staff to keep our staff safe and well so we can continue to provide the critical care and safe care that people need in our health boards.

“It’s not just about controlling and responding to the situation at hand, but preparing for those big spikes in numbers.

“Our staff look forward to working on responding to those outbreaks, but we want to make sure we’re in the best possible shape to prepare for them.”

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