Finland prepared even for major epidemic of swine flu
Finnish exchange student in Mexico not worried by swine flu
Contingency plans drawn up in Finland in 2006 for a possible pandemic of bird flu are to be applied if the current outbreak of swine flu spreads to this country.
On Monday the World Health Organisation raised the pandemic alert level to phase four out of a possible six. The upgrade means that while the risk of a pandemic has increased significantly, it can still be averted.
Under the Finnish guidelines, those suspected of having caught the disease are to be put in a hospital in isolation. The patients, and people who have been in contact with them, are to be given antiviral drugs.
If an epidemic spreads, more medical personnel and hospital facilities are to be committed to the effort.
Tapani Melkas, the top civil servant at the Ministry of Social Affairs and Health, says that the readiness level is good in all parts of the country.
Officials assure the public that Finland has sufficient stockpiles of medicine to deal with an extensive swine flu epidemic. There are about 1.3 million courses of the antiviral drug Tamiflu, which should be effective against the disease.
The stockpiles should be adequate, as even in the event of a pandemic, no more than a third of the population is expected to be infected, says Professor Petri Ruutu of the National Institute for Health and Welfare (THL). Ne notes that of those who do catch the disease, many will exhibit only mild symptoms.
Melkas says that if needed, the medicines would be distributed through public health care, and not through pharmacies.
Travel agencies report that relatively few Finnish tourists are currently in Mexico, where the outbreak started.
THL advises travellers to be mindful about hygiene - especially to keep hands clean, and to b e careful when coughing.
In the Mexican city of Veracruz, on the coast of the Gulf of Mexico, Finnish exchange student Pilvi Kangasniemi says that she only heard about the epidemic when she spoke on the telephone with her family in Finland a few days ago. During the weekend, she learned more from her friends and on the Internet.
On Monday her class at the school that she attends was advised of precautions to take.
“To avoid the flu we should take vitamins, eat fresh fruit and vegetables, and if any symptoms arise, we should not come to school”, she said.
On Monday, protective masks were offered to all who wanted one. “I used one during recess too”, Kangasniemi said.
“Yesterday I spoke to another Finnish exchange student who lives in the state of Oaxaca. I heard that there were many who had been infected, but they still went to school.”
Later on Monday, the Mexican Minister of Health announced that all schools would be closed temporarily.
In Finland, THL expects to receive reports on the extent of the worldwide epidemic, and on the behaviour of the virus.
Previously in HS International Edition:
Finnish students stuck in Mexico in the middle of swine flu (27.4.2009)
Swine influenza (Wikipedia)
WHO website: Swine influenza - update 3