FIGHTING THE FLU: In a bid to help control the spread of swine flu, Lismore ambulance paramedic Bill Stralow is wearing the face mask and goggles now mandatory for all frontline ambulance workers in NSW.
FIGHTING THE FLU: In a bid to help control the spread of swine flu, Lismore ambulance paramedic Bill Stralow is wearing the face mask and goggles now mandatory for all frontline ambulance workers in NSW. David Nielsen

Paramedics don masks to beat flu

DON'T be alarmed if the next time you see your local ambulance paramedic they're looking a little post-apocalyptic.

As of this week, all Ambulance Service of NSW frontline staff have to wear face masks and goggles to help prevent the spread of swine flu.

The masks are specifically designed to ward off respiratory infections.

“It's more a risk management tool than anything else,” Richmond zone district manager Glen Eady said.

“It may look different to the people who we treat and transport, but it doesn't impact the ability to carry out care.

“It's probably in relation to the concern about swine flu.

“It's heightened everyone's awareness of the potential risks.”

The directive from Ambulance Service management is compulsory for all paramedics, patient transport officers and ambulance volunteers.

The Ambulance Service is also looking at moving its pregnant staff to other work locations to prevent swine flu infections in this particularly vulnerable group.

There are now more than 160 confirmed cases of H1N1 influenza on the North Coast, including 10 hospitalisations and one death where the virus was detected.

However, North Coast Area Health Service public health director, Paul Corben, said that was a big underestimate of the number of people actually infected.

“The number of confirmed cases overall is really just a gross underestimate of the number of people who've been infected,” he said.

“We're now certainly getting local transmissions of this virus and it's important for people to know the symptoms.”

Mr Corben said people who were pregnant, or had existing health problems, should see their doctor if they developed flu-like symptoms and anyone with symptoms should stay home until they were better.

There have been more than 840 confirmed hospitalisations from swine flu across NSW.

According to NSW Health, there are 47 people with the flu currently receiving treatment in intensive care and there have been 21 deaths associated with the deadly virus.

Symptoms, which usually appear within four days of exposure, include fever, coughing, tiredness, muscle aches, a sore throat, chills, shortness of breath, a runny nose and headache.

In some cases, people have also experienced vomiting and diarrhoea, and the development of severe pneumonia.



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