The world health organisation has updated its status on the swine flu (a/h1n1) to the level of it being a public health emergency of international concern.

Members may have patients present at pharmacies with systems that need clarification, or with consumers planning to travel overseas and wanting preventive information. The following may prove useful.


The purpose of this paper is to provide information to PSA members which should help with public enquiries regarding the Swine Flu which is causing public concern as human-to-human infection is possible.


The symptoms of swine flu in people are similar to the symptoms of regular human flu and include:

-sore throat
-body aches

Some people have reported diarrhea and vomiting associated with swine flu. Severe illness (pneumonia and respiratory failure) and deaths have been reported with swine flu infection in people. Like seasonal flu, swine flu may cause a worsening of underlying chronic medical conditions.

Protection Against Infection

There is no vaccine available against the Swine Flu at present. Antiviral treatments such as Tamiflu may be helpful but consumers should be advised to consult their medical practitioner who is the prescribing authority. In some cases, medical practitioners may prescribe antiviral treatments as a precautionary measure to people travelling overseas.

There also are everyday actions that can help prevent the spread of respiratory illnesses like swine influenza. Everyday steps that can be taken to help protect against infection which include:

-Covering the nose and mouth with a tissue when coughing or sneezing. Dispose of the tissue properly.
-Wash hands often with soap and water, especially after coughing or sneezing. Alcohol-based hand cleaners are also effective.
-Avoid touching eyes, nose or mouth to avoid spreading infecton/disease.
-Try to avoid close contact with sick people.
-If ill with influenza, stay home from work or school and limit contact with others to keep from infecting them.
-Limit contact with other people as much as possible.

The spread of Swine Flu is thought to be happening the way that seasonal flu spreads - mainly person-to-person through coughing, sneezing or coming into contact with an infected person.

According to the World Health Organisation, there is no evidence Swine Flu can be caught by eating ``properly handled and prepared pork (pig meat) or other products derived from pigs''. The swine influenza virus was killed by cooking pork to 70C, the WHO said.

What should people do if they get sick?

If they live in areas where swine influenza cases have been identified and become ill with influenza-like symptoms, including fever, body aches, runny nose, sore throat, nausea, or vomiting or diarrhea, they should immediately contact their doctor. Patients should stay home and avoid contact with other people as much as possible to keep from spreading the illness to others.

If a person experiences any of the following warning signs, they should immediately seek medical care:

In children emergency warning signs that need urgent medical attention include:
-Fast breathing or trouble breathing
-Bluish skin color
-Not drinking enough fluids
-Not waking up or not interacting
-Being so irritable that the child does not want to be held
-Flu-like symptoms improve but then return with fever and worse cough
-Fever with a rash
-Severe or persistent vomiting

In adults, emergency warning signs that need urgent medical attention include:
-Difficulty breathing or shortness of breath
-Pain or pressure in the chest or abdomen
-Sudden dizziness
-Severe or persistent vomiting

Where To Get Help

Talk to a doctor - If a person presents with symptoms they should be advised to make contact with their GP as soon as possible.

If a person is travelling to or residing in a country affected by swine flu - refer to the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade Smart Traveller site,

If there is an outbreak of pandemic influenza in the community:

-Watch TV, listen to the radio or check newspapers for up-to-date information.
-Call the Health and Ageing public information hotline 1800 004 599. Useful information
- Australian Department of Health and Ageing
Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade ( SmartTraveller site)
World Health organisation

Preparing Your Pharmacy

The Department of Health and Ageing has posted this information on its pandemic website.

If an influenza pandemic occurs, pharmacists will play an important role in educating the public about the risks of a pandemic and about good infection control measures.

They will advise on over-the-counter products for infection control and symptomatic relief, and will dispense prescribed medications. The Department of Health and Ageing is consulting with the Pharmacy Guild of Australia and the Pharmaceutical Society of Australia to discuss in more detail the role pharmacists will play. Pharmacies vary in their design and layout. Some may have a single entrance and others multiple entry points. These physical constraints are important considerations in deciding how customers would enter, move through and leave a pharmacy during a pandemic.

Pharmacies should consider:

-placing signage at entrance redirecting customers displaying flu symptoms to another appropriate facility -providing masks at the entrance for customers displaying symptoms (e.g. fever or respiratory symptoms)
-implementing a one way route through the pharmacy
-limiting the number of customers in the premises at any one time, and where possible, maintaining a one metre distance between customers
-providing personal protective equipment for staff required to control the flow of customers in and out of the pharmacy
-displaying and making available to the public information material about pandemic influenza and infection control.

Like other primary health care facilities, pharmacies should look at their capacity to modify the internal layout of the pharmacy to create a partition between general customers and staff and members of the public who may have influenza. This may involve setting up separate zones including separate cash registers for cold and flu products, and general prescription services. The layout of a particular pharmacy will determine its ability to cope with an expected increase in customers during a pandemic. Security of the premises will also be important.

Surge Demand In Pharmacies

During a pandemic, pharmacies are likely to experience:

-an increase in demand for dispensing non-influenza medication from customers anxious to maintain a supply of regular medications
-requests for antiviral medicines
-an increase in demand for over the counter products such as hygiene kits, personal protective equipment, surgical masks, thermometers, and cold and flu medicine
-a demand for over-the-counter advice on pandemic influenza.
Community pharmacists will play a key role in providing frontline advice to the public, as well as disseminating health promotion materials.

Pharmaceutical Society of Australia Further information on Swine Flu See a Map Of H1N1 Outbreaks See our Mexico Swine Flu Blog

View drug information on Tamiflu capsule.

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