HEALTH chiefs in Barnet have accepted swine flu is now “commonplace” within the borough.

The number of reported cases of the virus is increasing every day, although doctors are insisting there is still a low risk of serious illness.

They have reiterated healthcare advice and are continuing to remind people to take precautions to help prevent the wider spread of the A/H1N1 virus.

Dr Andrew Burnett, medical director and director for health improvement for NHS Barnet said: “The numbers of people reporting flu-like symptoms across the borough continues to increase and it is evident that Influenza A/H1N1 is now more commonplace in the community.

“More people are getting flu, however for the vast majority it is only a mild illness with people making a full recovery very quickly.”

He said people should use tissues to cover their nose and mouth when coughing or sneezing, and they should be immediately placed in a bin.

It is also important to ensure people wash their hands regularly with soap and water to reduce spread of the virus to other people, he added.

There are also warnings some groups are more likely to develop complications if they become infected, such as pregnant women, over 65s or those with long term conditions, such as asthma or diabetes.

Those people are urged to contact GP surgeries where doctors will assess matters over the telephone and if necessary prescribe antiviral medication, which helps relieve the symptoms and can reduce the risk of complications.

Dr Burnett said: “As more is becoming known about this virus, it is apparent that this illness, in most instances, is mild with most patients recovering within 48 hours.

“Healthcare advice has now changed to state that people with swine flu only need to be excluded from work or school for 48 hours or until symptoms have resolved, whichever is longer.”

Anyone concerned they, or someone they care for, has flu-like symptoms should take the following steps:

  • Visit the NHS Choices website ( for information and frequently asked questions about Swine Flu. There is also an online flu symptom checker on both and the NHS Direct website (
  • Ring the national Swine Flu Information Line on 0800 1 513 513. This provides pre-recorded information about Swine Flu.
  • Call the NHS Direct telephone service on 0845 46 47. Callers with flu-like symptoms who have internet access will be asked to try the online flu symptom checker first. If necessary, they will be able to request a call back from an advisor. Otherwise callers are asked to hold to speak to someone who can help.
  • Contact your GP surgery over the phone.