HSE is supporting a change to laboratory containment measures for the A/H1N1 strains of influenza, commonly referred to as swine flu. This change only applies to laboratory activities with the virus, and does not change HSE’s guidance on swine flu.
The revision follows the June 2009 meeting of the Advisory Committee on Dangerous Pathogens (ACDP), where the committee discussed laboratory containment of novel A/H1N1. It was agreed that once this strain of influenza virus was routinely circulating in the UK and there were sustained levels of transmission, all laboratory-based work with the virus, including handling, concentration and propagation, could take place at containment level 2, instead of containment level 3. This is subject to a suitable and sufficient risk assessment, with use of a Microbiological Safety Cabinet (MSC) until inactivation of the virus.
The Special Advisory Group on Emergencies (SAGE) has now confirmed that the threshold at which the virus can be said to be widely circulating in the UK, with sustained levels of transmission, has been reached.
On the basis of the ACDP and SAGE advice, HSE recommends the above revision of laboratory containment measures subject to suitable risk assessment for laboratory based work. Furthermore, this position is contingent on the situation in the UK, not the situation globally.