WHO Offers Interim Guidance for Swine Flu Outbreaks

The current situation regarding the outbreaks of A(H1N1) swine influenza is evolving rapidly, and countries from different regions of the globe have been affected.

Based on epidemiological data, human-to-human transmission has been demonstrated along with the ability of the virus to cause community-level outbreaks which together suggest the possibility of sustained human-to-human transmission. Healthcare facilities now face the challenge of providing care for patients infected with A(H1N1) swine influenza. It is critical that healthcare workers use appropriate infection control precautions when caring for patients with influenza-like symptoms, particularly in areas affected by outbreaks of A(H1N1) swine influenza, in order to minimize the possibility of transmission among themselves, to other healthcare workers, patients and visitors.

As at 29 April, human-to-human transmission of A(H1N1) swine influenza virus appears to be mainly through droplets. Therefore, the infection control precautions for patients with suspected or confirmed A(H1N1) swine influenza and those with influenza-like symptoms should prioritize the control of the spread of respiratory droplets. The precautions for influenza virus with sustained human-to-human transmission (e.g. pandemic-prone influenza) are described in detail in the document, "Infection prevention and control of epidemic- and pandemic-prone acute respiratory diseases in healthcare: WHO Interim Guidelines."

This guidance may change as new information becomes available. To access the guidance, CLICK HERE.

The fundamentals of infection prevention strategies

1. Administrative controls are key components, including: implementation of Standard and Droplet Precautions; avoid crowding, promote distance between patients (≥ 1 m); patient triage for early detection, patient placement and reporting; organization of services; policies on rational use of available supplies; policies on patient procedures; strengthening of infection control infrastructure.

2. Environmental/engineering controls, such as basic healthcare facility infrastructure, adequate ventilation, proper patient placement, and adequate environmental cleaning can help reduce the spread of some respiratory pathogens during healthcare.

3. Rational use of available personal protective equipment (PPE) and appropriate hand hygiene.

Critical measures include:

- Avoid crowding patients together, promote distance between patients

- Protect mucosa of mouth and nose

- Perform hand hygiene

For an influenza update from the WHO, CLICK HERE