Page last updated at 07:26 GMT, Thursday, 30 April 2009 08:26 UK

Doctor's Diary: Swine flu

By Dr Lucy Andrews

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BBC diary doctor Lucy Andrews talks about the signs of Swine flu, and what to do if you think you are infected.

With the current outbreak of swine flu, it is useful to know what to look for.

Swine flu is a not a new flu. It has been detected occasionally in Britain since the 1950's, but this particular strain is new, that is the virus has become capable of human to human spread.

This is by human to human contact and droplet spread. This means it has the potential to spread through large population groups as we have no natural resistance to it.

We are coming out of the season for the normal type of flu that we see in Britain, and that is largely because flu viruses find it harder to spread during the warmer temperatures.

This is important to remember for two reasons.

One is that it means this new strain of swine flu is less likely to spread rapidly at this time of year, but also that as GPs we are seeing less 'flu-like symptoms' in our day-to-day surgeries.

Therefore, we are in a good position to be cautious and aware when we do come across it.

It is important to remember that this strain of swine flu is sensitive to the anti-viral drug Tamiflu, and we currently have enough of this in the UK to treat half the population if need be.

The symptoms of swine flu are very similar to those of the normal influenza, the main ones being fever and a cough or a sore throat and a runny nose, with a headache, general muscle aches and pains.

Diarrhoea and vomiting have been associated with this particular strain.

If you have these symptoms and you have returned from Mexico or certain areas of the United States in the seven days preceding the onset of your symptoms then you should contact your GP, and explain your recent travel history.

If you have returned from the affected areas but are currently well, you should monitor yourself carefully over the following seven days for any signs of a flu-like illness.

The transmission of the virus can be reduced by covering your nose and mouth when coughing or sneezing, and using a tissue, which is then carefully and promptly disposed of.

Maintaining a good level of basic hygiene with regular hand-washing with soap and water, and frequently cleaning hard surfaces with a normal cleaning product will help.

Children should be encouraged to follow this advice too.


The doctor's diary is a weekly insight into the local and national issues affecting a busy GP practice.

The Doctors

Dr JonesDr AndrewsDr CoffeyDr SanghaDr DuckenfieldDr Tunstall-Pedoe

The BBC diary doctors work at Brocklebank Health Centre in Wandsworth, London, which has 15 GPs and nine nurses. It is open seven days a week, and also offers services including physiotherapy, counselling, a travel clinic and the Citizen Advice Bureau.

DR NICOLA JONES

Nicola has been a GP for 14 years and has a particular interest in heart conditions, preventative health care and women's health. She has three children and a passion for exercise and the outdoors.

MBE. MBchB. DRCOG. MRCGP. MBA.

DR LUCY ANDREWS

Lucy has been practising as a GP since 1996. After a period of time in Australia and Hampshire she is now settled in London. Her main areas of clinical interest include paediatrics, palliative care and psychiatry. She is married with three young boys and a puppy.

BSc. MBBS. MRCGP. DRCOG. DFFP.

DR TOM COFFEY

Tom has been a GP for 14 years. He also works at A&E in Charing Cross Hospital, Hammersmith. His particular interests are sports medicine, allergies and lung disease. He is a keen tennis player and has been a Chelsea season ticket holder for 10 years.

BSc(Hons). MBBS. MRCP. DCh. DRCOG.

DR REGGIE SANGHA

Reggie qualified from Cardiff medical school in 1995, she did her GP training in Brighton and has been a practising GP for nine years. Her specialist interests include sexual health, family planning and expedition medicine. In her spare time she likes playing tennis and is a keen photographer.

MBchB. MRCGP. DRCOG. DFSRH.

DR JANE DUCKENFIELD

Jane graduated from Bristol University in 1999. Her interests are women's health, sexual heath and psychiatry. She likes travel, food and fine wine, with the odd trip to the gym to compensate!

MBChB Bristol. MRCGP. DRCOG. DFFP.

DR SUSIE TUNSTALL- PEDOE

Susie has been working as a GP at Brocklebank for nine years, following stints working abroad in Belize and Kenya. She loves student teaching and her clinical interests include women's health, paediatrics, tropical medicine and palliative care. She has four young children and is a keen musician.

MBBS. MRCGP. DRCOG. DFFP.



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