Following our recent email regarding a suspected outbreak of respiratory infections we have received a letter from the NHS East and North Hertfordshire Clinical Commissioning Group to be shared with all Care Homes in Hertfordshire containing important information about infection management and viral swabs. Read the full letter below and please take action where needed:

To all care home managers,

As you will be aware from previous communications, there is an increased number of suspected respiratory infection outbreaks within care homes in Hertfordshire at present.

The local Health Protection Team (PHE) are advising on the management of these outbreaks, but to assist them the CCG have agreed to support the affected care homes with swabbing of residents with suspected influenza.

Viral  swabs are requested by PHE in order to ensure that the appropriate measures are taken to minimise transmission of the infection within a care home, and dependent on the results may minimise the length of time that a care home or unit needs to remain closed.

If you have reported a potential outbreak to PHE  and they have requested swabs to be taken from residents, then it is important that these are taken promptly. Swabs taken within the first 48-72 hours of a person’s symptoms are more likely to identify the influenza virus if indeed they have influenza.

Please do not ask your GP practice to undertake the swabbing. Specific viral swabs are required in these outbreaks so please call the following for advice on how the swabs should be obtained:

Monday – Friday (9am-5pm)

Contact the Head of Infection Prevention and Control for East & North Hertfordshire CCG and Herts Valleys CCG on telephone 01442 284048

Sunday – Thursday Evenings (5pm – 9am)

Any samples requested during the evenings from Sunday to Thursday can be deferred until the following morning, when the same arrangements as for normal working hours will be in operation.

Weekends (i.e. Friday 5pm to Sunday 12.30pm)

Contact the on-call manager from Hertfordshire Community Trust on 07554 117112. To assist the process, in some cases swabs taken by HCT staff on a Saturday afternoon or evening may need to be returned to the hospital lab on Sunday morning by the care home to ensure that they are processed promptly.