Page last updated at 09:59 GMT, Tuesday, 7 July 2009 10:59 UK

Family quarantined after holiday

Tamiflu is used to treat people with swine flu

A locked-down health centre, quarantine and doctors in masks.

Not the usual end to a family holiday, but that is exactly what one Donegal family experienced after they returned home from the US.

Enda McClafferty, a reporter with BBC Radio Foyle, had been visiting family in New York when one of his daughters developed flu-like symptoms

"Four days before we were due to return home from New York one of my daughters developed a virus," said Enda.

"We took her to the hospital in New York. They said she did have a virus but reassured us it wasn't swine flu, because we did ask that question."

However, a few days later her sister also began vomiting and had a very high fever. On the plane home the condition of both girls deteriorated.

"When we arrived in Dublin we contacted our local GP," said Enda.

"We told him the symptoms, where we were coming from and he told us to go straight to the health centre in Lifford and not to go home."

The scene that greeted them in Lifford was in stark contrast to the reaction of the medical profession in New York.

"When we arrived they had closed the health centre in preparation for our arrival, they brought in two doctors dressed in overalls from top to toe wearing masks and goggles," he said.

swine flu poster
A government information campaign about swine flu was launched in April

"I was surprised when we went to New York that there was very little talk about swine flu, when I mentioned swine flu to the doctor in the hospital he was pretty dismissive, that it would be no big deal if she had swine flu."

In Lifford, the family, after initial testing, was told that one of the girls might have swine flu and they should go home and remain in quarantine until the test results came back.

"I was very impressed with the doctors in Lifford. Throughout the time the girls had to stay in the house for three days, the doctors were on the phone, they were reassuring you," said Enda.

"They told us what was happening, and what the procedure would be if something else happened.

"Whenever we were with the children we had to wear masks.

"We had to take great care of their hygiene, all hankies had to be properly disposed off, make sure they washed their hands on a regular basis.

"All this at the same time as trying to control their fever and vomiting, as well as administering the tamiflu."

By the end of the three days the girls had recovered and were allowed to leave their bedroom quarantine. Later the tests for swine-flu were to come back negative.

Professor John Oxford, a virology and influenza expert, praised the response of the doctors in County Donegal.

"I would congratulate everyone involved in that effort," said Prof Oxford.

"You can view this as an aeroplane on the runway, with the flu being the aeroplane, but if you slow the speed down on the runway it's never going to take off. In Ireland you are still at the stage where you can keep people away from each other and slow down the aeroplane."

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