Swine flu suspected at student conference


FOUR STUDENTS from University College Cork (UCC) have developed symptoms of swine flu after attending a student union conference in Waterford. The students contacted the out-of-hours GP service in Cork after returning from the Union of Students in Ireland (USI) conference at the weekend.

Dr Michael Byrne, head of student health services at UCC, said the students gave a history of having contracted the influenza A(H1N1) virus at the gathering but this had not yet been laboratory confirmed.

He said the conference ran from Tuesday to Saturday and the students began to feel unwell on Friday and Saturday.The students isolated themselves in one house and have not returned to the UCC campus, he added.

There are now concerns other students from across the country who attended the conference may also develop symptoms, which are broadly similar to those of seasonal flu.

UCC, in a statement, said the situation was being managed in accordance with HSE guidelines. “The university has a pandemic response team in place which includes expert members from across the university to implement the recommendations contained in the National Pandemic Influenza Plan,” it added.

Latest figures released by the Department of Health indicate a further 11 cases of swine flu were confirmed in the State over the weekend bringing the total number of confirmed cases to date in the Republic to 164. Some 17 of these cases are known to have been transmitted within the country.

The Department of Health said it appears that after a person becomes infected with swine flu it takes less than two days for symptoms to start and this is when people are most infectious.

It also said women who are pregnant and develop flu symptoms should contact their GP and arrange to receive antiviral medication. And it says women who are breastfeeding and who contract the flu should continue to breastfeed as much as they can to protect their baby. “It is safe to breastfeed while taking antiviral medicine. Breastfeeding babies should be fed on demand to allow as much protection pass to the baby as possible,” it said.

“The risk for influenza A(H1N1) transmission through breast milk is unknown as yet, but it is rare for normal flu to be transmitted through breast milk from mother to baby,” it said.

The HSE is not advising women to postpone having children as a result of the pandemic. Neither is the Department of Health in the UK, despite some confusion about the advice it had first issued in this regard.

Meanwhile, the North’s chief medical officer Dr Michael McBride said 50 cases of swine flu have been identified there since May. He said the public health responses on both sides of the border are fully co-ordinated and insisted the World Health Organisation views the UK as among the best positioned to counter the H1N1 pandemic.