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Swine flu and Question Time

Two weeks ago Question Time, the BBC2 political debate show, came to Birmingham. I was in the audience (bright pink top, you can’t miss me) and was chosen to ask a question. Sadly it didn’t get asked, but I’ve posted a picture of it and wanted to explain why i felt it needed discussing. My question was ‘given the WHO have upped the swine flu level to pandemic, do the panel feel the general public have been properly prepared?’

I was disappointed my question didn’t get asked, especially as it was the lead story on the BBC news at 10pm – Question Time is filmed around 8pm and shown after the News. But also because the huge rise in swine flu cases means the public is worried but don’t seem to know what they should do if they think they’ve caught it.

The hospital I work at had a 25% increase in visitors to A+E with flu-like symptoms last week. And I spent the best part of the week uploading files, action cards and FAQs to an intranet site and used the word algorithm more times than an episode of Numbers. Safe to say the general public, or perhaps just those of Birmingham, did not get the message as to what to do if you think you have swine flu.

So here’s what to do if you develop flu-like symptoms; DO NOT GO TO A+E. You potentially have a contageous disease – stay at home and try not to infect anyone else. This also means you should avoid GP surgeries or anywhere there are large numbers of people. Do what you’d normally do with flu – stay home, rest, keep well hydrated. Call NHS Direct on 0845 46 47 or check the NHS website www.nhs.uk. Phone your GP if it puts your mind at ease. Listen to them. They have the most up to date news.

Do not do what one woman I overheard doing and go into a crowded area and whinge that a doctor won’t see your ill child because he has flu-like symptoms.

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