11 June 2009
As United Nations health officials declare the first global flu pandemic in 40 years, the British Red Cross is primed and ready to offer support across the UK.
Layton Thompson (BRC)
Sir Liam Donaldson, chief medical officer, told the BBC: "The declaration of a pandemic per se doesn't make a big difference to the to the way we are handling the outbreaks we have. But we need to watch very carefully to see if the character of the virus is changing."
There has been a steep rise in the number of cases in Australia and there are now nearly 28,000 recorded cases worldwide. This latest move acknowledges that the virus is spreading in at least two regions of the world – it does not necessarily mean it is causing more severe illness or more deaths
Prepared and ready
For weeks, volunteers and Red Cross staff have been making preparations for a potential future outbreak of the H1N1 virus – also known as swine flu. Area teams in many parts of the country are on standby, ready to transfer patients, staff help-lines and distribute anti-virals.
In Greater Manchester, the Red Cross has embarked on a pilot scheme – in partnership with St John Ambulance – that will see volunteers delivering flu kits and anti-virals to GP surgeries, then taking the used kits back to a testing facility.
Preventing the spread
In Scotland, the Red Cross has an agreement in principle with Health Protection Scotland to provide transport to those arriving into Glasgow and Edinburgh airports with swine flu symptoms.
Peter McCarthy, operations director, said: “In the event of an outbreak, the Red Cross would collect the person from their point of entry and take them directly to their destination, thus precluding the need for them to enter the public transport system.”
Visit the Department of Health’s website
Find out about our health and social care services
Learn how to be prepared for swine flu
Learn about first aid
Read about how we responded to Spanish flu