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News / October 6, 2009

HSE issues H1N1 guidelines for dental practitioners

by Guy Hiscott

The HSE has issued guidelines for the dental team in relation to the H1N1 flu virus.

Published in September, the guidance covers simple steps to stop the transmission of the virus, such as:

• Letters from the practice should include advice to patients on swine flu symptoms and a request not to attend for their appointment but to ring and re-schedule if they have any of the symptoms 

• All patients should be asked by the receptionist to clean their hands with alcohol hand gel or by washing their hands with soap and water on arrival at the dental surgery. Signage regarding hand hygiene and respiratory etiquette should be displayed at the entrance

• Signs should be placed in waiting rooms outlining symptoms of flu and advising symptomatic patients to reschedule appointments 

• Boxes of tissues should be placed in waiting rooms along with lined waste bins for disposal of used tissues (non-healthcare risk waste) 

• Staff with symptoms of pandemic (H1N1) flu should be advised to stay at home and not come to work for seven days from onset of illness 

• Staff should be offered vaccination when the pandemic vaccine is available 

• Standard infection control precautions should be followed with particular attention to and hygiene, personal protective equipment, equipment decontamination and environment decontamination.

The guidance goes on to state that should a patient with suspected or confirmed H1N1 flu require emergency dental treatment, dentists are advised to placed in a separate waiting room or, if this is not possible, to see them outside of normal practice hours.

The Clinical guidance for dental practitioners in relation to pandemic (H1N1) 2009 influenza virus can be downloaded at