Cathay Pacific's measures against swine flu

As Hong Kong’s airline, Cathay Pacific always puts the health and safety of its passengers and employees as a top priority. In light of increased attention worldwide on the potential threat caused by the Influenza A (H1N1) (swine influenza) outbreak, the airline has put a number of procedures in place to ensure it is fully prepared in the event of the continued spread of the disease.

The World Health Organisation (WHO) considers the current Influenza A (H1N1) situation a Public Health Emergency of International Concern and urges strengthening of surveillance and control. The current level of Pandemic Flu Alert is 5. Hong Kong confirmed the first imported case of Influenza A (H1N1) on 01-May-09. In response to this case the Response Level under the Hong Kong Government’s Preparedness Plan for Influenza Pandemic was elevated from Serious to Emergency.

The WHO and the Hong Kong Centre for Health Protection (CHP) advise people who are ill to delay international travel and those who develop symptoms following international travel to seek medical attention, in line with guidance from national authorities.

Cathay Pacific preventive measures

・ As soon as the threat became clear, Cathay Pacific established an Influenza A Task Force, made up of representatives from its Corporate Medical Department and other key operational departments. The task force is meeting regularly and updating the airline’s response in accordance with worldwide developments in the disease outbreak.

Cathay Pacific is keeping in close contact with all the relevant authorities and is acting in line with the response from bodies such as the Hong Kong Government, the Port Health Authority, the WHO, ICAO and IATA.

・ The airline has been issuing regular updates to its staff, with specific communications targeting cabin crew and other frontline teams. The Corporate Medical Department has established a specific site on the corporate intranet with detailed updates and links to specific sites such as CHP daily update, the WHO and US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) Influenza A websites, and IATA information.

・ General handling guidelines for frontline staff to follow when facing a suspected case of communicable disease have also been posted. These guidelines provide a basic framework of response to reassure frontline staff and help them manage such an event.

・ Another measure currently being taken is an updated health message broadcast on all flights arriving into Hong Kong to alert crew and passengers on the current situation and the necessary actions required. All inbound passengers to Hong Kong will be asked to sign a health declaration form.

・ A Public Health Alert Notice is being posted at all check-in counters advising passengers that if they are feeling unwell with flu-like symptoms, they should immediately identify themselves to airline staff for assistance or defer their travel until they have recovered or sought medical attention.

・ The airline has also increased the stock of face masks available on flights as a precautionary measure. In line with the recommendations from various health bodies, procedures are in place for where and when crew are advised to wear masks when dealing with suspected cases.

・ For personal considerations, staff choosing to wear masks may do so. They should discuss this with their supervisors. It is important to remember that basic personal hygiene measures are still the cornerstone of infection prevention (staying home if ill, cough etiquette, frequent washing of hands etc). Staff are also advised to take a temperature check at home before going to work.

Protecting passengers

Cathay Pacific already has proper procedures in place to assist cabin crew if they need to deal with passengers onboard who are suspected to have a respiratory infection. The guidelines are in line with those established by the World Health Organization and Centers for Disease Control and Protection specifically for airline staff and passengers.

Cabin hygiene

With the health of passengers and employees in mind, Cathay Pacific always maintains the highest standard of cleaning and disinfecting for its aircraft cabins, seats, galleys and restrooms. Cleaning procedures are aligned with guidelines issued by various international regulatory and health authorities and stepped-up measures are already in place for suspected cases.

Clean air

Cathay Pacific adopts HEPA (High Efficiency Particulate Arresters) filtration systems that are capable of filtering 99.999% of dust particles and airborne contaminates, ensuring the highest possible quality of cabin air.

Catering precautions

Cathay Pacific and its catering partners adhere to the strictest food preparation and storage procedures to ensure the highest food safety standards as required by the regulatory authorities in Hong Kong and around the world. The airline closely follows guidelines from the local governments in its network.

Precautions taken by Cathay Pacific Catering Services include an established a fivefive-level alert system and good ventilation in the catering complex. CPCS staff follow strict hygiene guidelines at work and maintain good personal hygiene at all times. (NOTE: The WHO has not given any indication that eating pork products is a risk.)

Other measures

・ The airline continues to review and reinforce all health procedures in accordance with guidelines issued by regulatory, industry and health authorities.

・ The airline has been constantly working to promote public health awareness among its staff. Measures include an influenza vaccination campaign, lectures from prominent experts, and an Intranet website put together by its Corporate Medical Department to provide staff with regular updates on influenza along with health tips.

Guidelines to staff on protection:

・ Wash hands often with soap and water, especially after coughing or sneezing. Alcohol-based hand cleaners are also effective.

・ Try to stay in good general health. Get plenty of sleep, be physically active, manage stress, drink plenty of fluids, and eat nutritious food.

・ Try not touch surfaces that may be contaminated with the flu virus.

・ Avoid touching the eyes, nose or mouth. Germs spread this way.

・ Cover the nose and mouth with a tissue when coughing or sneezing. Throw the tissue in the trash after using.

・ Try to avoid close contact with sick people.

・ Any staff members who develop respiratory symptoms including fever, coughing, shortness of breath, chest pains, etc. are advised to stay at home and avoid venturing out in public. If they do have to go out in public, a mask should be worn. Staff members should stay away from work until the symptoms have gone. Those with serious symptoms, such as breathing difficulties, should contact their doctor as soon as possible as anti-viral medications need to be given within the first 48 hours of the symptoms first appearing in order to be effective.