The agenda basically covered two areas of work:
- Swine Flu – Statistics (Birmingham had one of the biggest outbreaks in the world), a general description of action taken, and specific information on the vaccination programme from Jim McManus ( Joint Director of Public Health).
- A review of progress to date of the work of the Birmingham Communities & Neighbourhoods Resilience Group and a forecast of the future from Jan Quigley (Emergency Planning Officer) & Martin Tolman (Emergency Planning Manager).
Jim McManus entitled his talk ‘lessons from a hot spot’. Birmingham has experienced the largest 1st wave outbreak of Swine Flu in Europe, and one of the largest in the world. Schools were the initial centre of the outbreak, and therefore 174,000 children in 204 schools were potential cases . In the wider community, 1000 people have been admitted to A&E since the start of the pandemic, a peak of 57 in one day.
A total of 1243 cases have been confirmed in the West Midlands (about 1/3 of all cases in England). Many more people have probably had the virus without realising it. Paradoxically, the virus is mild except in a few cases when it is serious. While most of these cases are in patients with underlying medical conditions, a few occur in people without any other disease.
Actions taken from the start of the pandemic focussed on briefings of all interested parties (Trade unions, parents, elected members) and of the child and adult social care system. With the initial outbreaks in schools, affected schools were closed at first to attempt to stop the spread of the virus. It soon became clear that the patterns of mixing in the community made this strategy ineffective, and the emphasis soon shifted to treatment (Tamiflu, Relenza etc) and to the longer term provision of a vaccine
Vaccine is now available for at risk groups. Many questions were raised about the vaccine from the forum members present. The main message from Jim McManus is that no significant problems have arisen with the vaccine so far (about 1,000,000 doses have been administered so far in the UK), and that he is personally in favour of its use subject to the advice of GPs in specific cases.
Jan Quigley described the communications strategies used by the group to keep the community informed, including leaflets, spots on local radio, the local press as well as notices in GPs surgeries and Pharmacies. A DVD for communities has been produced.
The progress and future development of BC&NRG
Martin Tolman talked about the work of the group to date, mentioning the City Centre group and the Climate Change Group (I volunteered for this). A trailer intended to introduce the Group to the community is available for meetings. The details of the various activities of the group are described on the website www.birminghamprepared.gov.uk This website also offers the opportunity to sign up to receive Birmingham Community Alerts in order to be notified, informed and advised if there is an emergency in your area, by text message or email.
by David Johnson, City Centre Neighbourhood Forum Committee