Outbreak of swine flu

DON’T bother trying to bring home the bacon if you’re struck down by swine flu, and bosses, don’t be pig-headed and make rash sackings.

That’s the advice of doctors pleading with employers to send sick workers home and stop the spread of an outbreak of the potentially deadly virus.

“Most people we’re seeing with this flu are between 15 and 35 and there have been some very sick people requiring admission to hospital,” one Emerald GP told Central Queensland News.

“A recurring theme is employers demanding their sick workers come to work and run the risk of infecting others.

“I have heard of one person who has been fired for not turning up when ill with this flu and several have received criticism from their supervisors about absenteeism.

“We are also hearing of some concerns about mining camps with FIFO workers.

“It would be more sensible for employers to vaccinate all their workers early than wait for the flu season to hit.”

Although Queensland Health would not specifically acknowledge swine flu among the 224 lab-confirmed cases of influenza in the central region this year, most of the cases in the Emerald area are believed to be H1N1.

The alarming spike is more than 400% on last year’s reported influenza cases to July (43) and double the number during the 2009 flu pandemic.

Emerald-based Queensland Rural Doctors Association president Dr Ewen McPhee said it was particularly important employers understood the importance of not insisting people attend work sites and work camps where the “potential was for transmission of the flu throughout the camp”.

Dr McPhee urged against panic in the community, saying flu sufferers should ring their GP or nearest hospital to make arrangements to limit contact.

“It is advised that people who believe they have the flu should stay away from work, school and social gatherings for at least seven days,” he said.

“They should practise coughing into tissues, good hand washing, as well as washing surfaces at home with domestic cleaning products.

“For people who are very unwell with high fever, headaches, severe cough or rash they should contact their GP in advance so special precautions or home visits can be undertaken to limit the spread of the disease through hospital outpatient and general practice clinics.”

Dr McPhee said stocks of Tamiflu were available in Emerald to shorten the severity and duration of the illness.

“It costs about $50 at the chemist on prescription,” he said.

“Flu immunisations are still available and encouraged, in particular for pregnant women and other at-risk individuals.”

Another Emerald GP said their practice was dealing with two to five cases of flu a day requiring treatment.

The elderly have had the benefit of early flu shots, with nursing home residents vaccinated every year in March or April.

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