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Look after yourself and prevent the spread

Clocktower.

Introduction

The threat of an influenza pandemic is being seriously considered by the University, with respect to staff and student welfare, as well as the potential impact on the University services. The following web site has been developed by the Pandemic Planning Group to provide specific information in relation to how the University is planning and preparing for a pandemic, and to provide general information for staff and students on how to keep well.

The Pandemic Planning Group is in the process of developing specific plans for the University response. This information will be updated on this site as work progresses.

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Basic principles for preventing the spread of influenza

Adapted from MOH 2006 Guidance for Infection Prevention and Control during an Influenza Pandemic Section 2

Everyone should follow these four basic principles at all times during an influenza pandemic to prevent influenza spreading.

Hand hygiene

Hand hygiene is the single most important means of preventing the spread of infection (Wenzel 2004); in non-health care settings, it is more crucial than wearing gloves. People should wash their hands well with soap and warm water for 15 to 20 seconds then dry them thoroughly, preferably with a disposable hand towel. An antiseptic gel designed for the purpose and used for 15 to 20 seconds is an alternative when hands are not visibly soiled. In this document, the phrase 'wash and dry hands' is used to describe hand hygiene.

Hand-to-face contact, as occurs during such activities as eating, grooming or smoking, presents a very high risk because of the potential for influenza to be transmitted from surfaces contaminated with respiratory secretions. Therefore, hands should always be washed and dried before any activity that involves hand-to-face contact and immediately after communal items are touched (eg, after handling money).

Cough and sneeze etiquette

People who are coughing or sneezing should avoid close contact with other people. If close contact is unavoidable (eg, in the home) the following simple measures aim to reduce the transmission of the virus (CDC 2003).

  • Minimise close contact with other people.
  • Cover your nose and mouth when coughing or sneezing, ideally with a tissue.
  • Do not spit out secretions in public. Cover your nose and mouth when clearing secretions and use a disposable tissue to contain them.
  • Use disposable tissues rather than handkerchiefs and dispose of them immediately after use into a lined rubbish bin that either has no lid or has a pedal-operated lid.
  • Wash and dry hands thoroughly after coughing or sneezing (CDC 2003).

Social distance

If an influenza pandemic has been declared, it will be advisable (if not made mandatory) for people to avoid crowded places and large gatherings (eg, social and sporting events). Curtail activities such as shopping or social visiting.

If you need to go out in public, keep a distance of at least 1 metre between yourself and any other person (Ministry of Health 2005b ) and, where possible, avoid making physical contact with other people.

Keeping this social distance will decrease the likelihood of influenza spreading from person to person during social contact.

Adequate ventilation

Influenza can spread in inadequately ventilated internal spaces.

Before an influenza pandemic, people should ensure windows can be opened and air-conditioning systems are properly designed and maintained. It is advisable that air handling systems do not re-circulate air and are vented to the outside to the maximum extent possible.

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Basic principles – handwashing and drying facilities in the University

A) Water should be at a temperature suitable for handwashing. This may be achieved with mixing taps as water from the hot tap alone may be too hot. According to the New Zealand Building Code, the temperature of hot water in storage cylinders in institutions such as University buildings must be at least 60°C to prevent the growth of Legionella bacteria, whereas the maximum temperature recommended for sanitary fixtures (eg hand basins) is 55°C.

B) Soap:

  • Liquid soap in dispenser, plain or antimicrobial soap are all acceptable.
  • All soaps must be replenished as required.
  • Waterless antiseptic agents (eg alcohol-based hand rubs are not routinely necessary). These agents should not be used if hands are visibly soiled (wash first).

C) Basins, soap dispensers and splash areas should be cleaned frequently.

D) Drying facilities:

  • Proper drying of hands is important as transmission of microorganisms is less effective in dry environments than wet environments.
  • A range of drying methods are acceptable, if properly used - see below.
    • Air drying. The main problem with air drying is that it takes longer than other drying methods and most users do not wait until their hands are properly dry. Air dryers may also disperse microorganisms through the air. Requires at least 30 seconds for adequate drying. Cleaning around the machine is required.
    • Paper towels. The quality (softness and strength) of paper towels is important because it aids user compliance. Dispensers should be easy to use without cross-contamination. Adequate bins for disposal are required.
    • Roller towels. Roller towels need to be replaced in a timely manner. Two roller towels, or another alternative drying method, in an area allows time for replacement.
  • All dispensers should be cleaned regularly

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Being prepared

Source: Ministry of Health 2006 Guidance for Infection Prevention and Control during an Influenza Pandemic: Section 3

To be ready for an influenza pandemic, many things can be done to prepare, including the following.

Know what you would need if you had to stay at home for a couple of weeks (eg, food and other supplies, a telephone network and a doctor's contact details). Keep the Healthline phone number (0800 611 116) in a handy place in case you need it.

Build your emergency supply kit (see the back of Telecom's Yellow Pages), including medication for pain and fevers (paracetamol or ibuprofen), toilet paper or tissues, and plastic bags for the disposal of used tissues.

Have an influenza vaccination (a 'flu jab') each year. Although the annual flu jab won't protect against pandemic influenza, the more people who are protected against circulating viruses, the less chance the virus has to mutate into a strain that could cause a pandemic (ie, reduce the opportunities for the new viruses, such as the avian flu virus and seasonal flu virus, to mix).

If you have prescription medicines (eg, for blood pressure) always renew your prescription well before you run out.

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Respiratory hygiene and cough etiquette

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Preventing the spread at work

Source: Ministry of Health 2006 Guidance for Infection Prevention and Control during an Influenza Pandemic: section 3.2

If you work in, or have responsibility for, a workplace where workers (including employees, casual staff and contractors) have close contact with other people, consider all the options available for providing protection, such as working from home or adjusting work hours or practices, so workers have less contact with other people. Discuss the possible options and their likely effectiveness with workers.

If workers must have contact with people due to the nature of their job, follow basic principles (ie, hand hygiene, cough and sneeze etiquette, social distance and adequate ventilation). Do not share items with other people, such as food, drinks or cigarettes. Wipe down surfaces likely to be used by other people (such as computer keyboards, telephones and door handles) with a disinfecting solution. One of the most effective and cheapest solutions is a bleach solution of 1 teaspoon (5 ml) of bleach to half a litre (500 ml) of water.

Note that before an influenza pandemic employers should develop a system for workers to screen themselves for influenza-like symptoms before they come to work. In all cases, discuss likely impacts and actions with all workers, unions and others who may be affected. Agreements reached before a pandemic will prove invaluable if such an emergency occurs.

If an influenza pandemic occurs, symptomatic workers should be sent home or told to stay at home until they are well enough to return to work. They should be advised to call Healthline 0800 611 116 or their primary provider for information about their ongoing care.

The Department of Labour has developed comprehensive information about hazard identification, assessment and control strategies for workplaces. This information aligns with the hierarchy of action from the Health and Safety in Employment Act 1992 as outlined in Appendix B. It can also be found at the Department of Labour website (www.dol.govt.nz).

Businesses are encouraged to develop a preventive approach to the workplace risks arising from a pandemic by adopting a continuity and influenza management plan. The Ministry of Economic Development has developed information that will assist in this planning. Its Business Continuity Planning Guide (Ministry of Economic Development 2005) is available from the Ministry of Health's website under 'A planning guide for businesses' (www.moh.govt.nz/pandemicinfluenza).

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Looking after yourself and others at home during an influenza pandemic

Source: Ministry of Health 2006 Guidance for Infection Prevention and Control during an Influenza Pandemic: section 3.2

Most people live with others, so will have closer contact with each other than they would at work or in some social situations. Therefore, it is important to always follow the basic principles listed in section 2 to prevent the spread of influenza (ie, hand hygiene, cough and sneeze etiquette, social distance and adequate ventilation).

If a household member becomes sick with pandemic influenza, try to keep them as far apart from other people as possible. Move them into their own bedroom and encourage them to remain there (rather than spending time on a couch or sofa in a living room). However, if more than one person in the house gets sick with influenza, they may share a room. Make sure they do not cough or sneeze towards you.

Wearing gloves, gowns or masks is not recommended for household members providing care in the home, because it has not been shown to prevent the spread of influenza in this setting (CDC 2005).

Do not share items with other household members, such as eating utensils and drink bottles.

Make sure dishes are washed using hot water either by hand or machine (USDHHS 2005).

Put all used tissues into a disposable container (such as a plastic bag that can be tied off or has a drawstring) or burn them as soon as possible.

Use a disinfecting solution to wipe down surfaces used by people who are sick with influenza before touching them (eg, telephones, door handles and toilet and bathroom facilities). One of the most effective and cheapest disinfecting solutions is a solution of 1 teaspoon (5 ml) of bleach to half a litre (500 ml) of water.

There are no special requirements for laundry in homes in an influenza pandemic because most people catch the virus from each other, so washing machines are an unlikely means of spread.

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Related pandemic influenza links