PM: Officials Preparing for Flu Pandemic

Prime Minister Matti Vanhanen said on Tuesday that Finland is preparing for a swine flu pandemic.

Yle Uutisten artikkeliarkisto

He said the government will meet on Wednesday to ensure that all necessary precautionary steps have been taken to prevent a spread of the disease if and when it appears in Finland.

The premier stresses that detailed crisis management plans are in place for pandemics, and that authorities are already preparing to carry them out.

Procedures in Place since 2006

The plan includes measures such as treating all affected individuals with anti-viral drugs. The action plan, which was drawn up by government in 2006, calls for specific treatment centres.

“In Helsinki, infected patients would initially be treated at Aurora hospital. People in contact with infected patients would be quarantined,” says chief physician Ville Valtonen of Aurora's Department of Infectious Diseases.

Finland has stockpiled 1.2 million doses of the antiviral drug Tamiflu in preparation of a viral pandemic, says Petri Ruutu, a professor at the National Institute for Health and Welfare. No more than a quarter of the population is expected to contract the virus if swine flu sweeps over Finland, according to Ruutu.

Health authorities say Tamiflu appears to be effective in combating swine flu if the treatment is given early enough.

Experts say it is too early to tell whether the disease will spread to Finland.

“The incubation period is between two and five days. This means that a person who has contracted the virus is able to travel from Mexico to Finland without showing any signs of symptoms,” says Valtonen.

Officials at the National Institute for Health and Welfare say they are keeping a close watch on the progress of the swine flu outbreak in Mexico.

No Official Travel Restrictions

The Finnish Ministry of Foreign Affairs has so far not issued any travel restrictions to the affected areas. However some Finnish companies have already decided to cancel some business trips.

Machinery manufacturers Wärtsilä and Metso are advising their personnel against travelling to Mexico, and forest product company UPM and packaging company Huhtamäki say they are following official guidelines.

Nokia has advised its employees to avoid travelling to Mexico -- and those in Mexico not to leave the country. The telecommunications giant has 3,500 workers in Mexico, mostly at its mobile handset factory in Raynosa.

The first European case of swine flu was confirmed by Spain's Health Ministry on Monday. Another 20 Spaniards are suspected of having the disease.

At least 10 people are under observation in Denmark and Sweden for possible swine flu after visiting Mexico and the southern United States.

Lähteet: YLE, AFP, AP