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Flu update

Update on Pandemic Flu Guidance from the UK

  • 5 November 2009 - Swine flu clinical pachake for use when there are exceptional demands on healthcare service

Recently updated guidance from the Department of Health, published on 6 October 2009.

  • The swine flu clinical package is a set of tools for use by frontline healthcare professionals, in severe and exceptional circumstances, during a pandemic situation. This revised version has been updated to reflect changes in the guidance on the use of empirical antibiotics and on oseltamivir prescribing in young children. The package has also been revised and redesigned to clarify the circumstances in which it should be used. These tools will help with the face-to-face application of the guidance Pandemic flu: managing demand and capacity in health care organisations (surge). It is therefore recommended that both documents are read in conjunction with each other.

Flu position paper published in the Medical Journal of Australia

Comment from Journal Watch on article from JAMA

Surgical Masks or N95 Respirators for the Flu?

In a randomized trial, surgical masks and N95 respirators provided healthcare workers with comparable protection against influenza.

How best to protect healthcare workers against influenza remains unresolved. During the 2008–2009 winter influenza season, investigators compared surgical masks with fit-tested N95 respirators in a randomized trial involving eight Ontario, Canada, tertiary care hospitals. Participants were 446 nurses who provided care to patients with febrile respiratory illness while working in emergency departments or inpatient medical or pediatric units. Follow-up (including twice-weekly assessment for signs and symptoms of influenza, and laboratory testing of nasal specimens from participants with influenza-like illness) lasted from January 12 through April 23, 2009. Influenza-vaccination status was comparable between the nurses using surgical masks and those using N95 respirators (30.2% and 28.1%, respectively), as were rates of exposure to spouses/roommates (22.4% and 25.9%) or children (22.6% and 20.5%) with influenza-like illness. The incidence of laboratory-confirmed influenza was similar between groups (23.6% and 22.9%). In addition, no significant between-group differences were noted in the incidence of influenza-like illness or infections with respiratory syncytial virus, metapneumovirus, parainfluenza viruses, rhinovirus-enterovirus, or coronaviruses.

Comment: That protection against multiple respiratory viruses was comparable between surgical masks and fit-tested N95 respirators is reassuring, given the far greater costs and logistical issues associated with N95 respirators. This study shows the distressingly low acceptance of influenza vaccination by healthcare workers and acknowledges the reality of exposure to influenza outside the workplace.

Loeb M et al. Surgical mask vs N95 respirator for preventing influenza among health care workers: A randomized trial. JAMA 2009 Oct 1; [e-pub ahead of print]. (

Page last updated: Dec 05, 2013
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