Page last updated at 17:44 GMT, Wednesday, 10 February 2010

Drop in swine flu cases leads to helpline closure

By Fergus Walsh
Medical correspondent, BBC News

Helpline
The service took thousands of calls

The National Pandemic Flu Service in England is to close because of the sharp decline in cases of the H1N1 swine flu virus.

From Thursday anyone who needs medical help because of flu will no longer be able to access anti-viral drugs online or via a helpline.

At its peak, 40,000 people a week received antivirals through the National Pandemic Flu Service.

But the figure has now fallen to below 5,000 a week.

The virus may not be around at the moment but it could come back
Sir Liam Donaldson
Chief Medical Officer for England

England was the only part of the UK to use this system, and health officials say it could be restored to full operation in seven days should the situation change.

Anyone who thinks they have flu can check their symptoms online.

If they still have concerns they can contact NHS Direct (NHS24 in Scotland) or call their GP.

The Chief Medical Office for England, Sir Liam Donaldson has repeated his call for parents of children aged six months to under five to have them immunised - even though cases of swine flu are very low.

He said: "The virus may not be around at the moment but it could come back.

"Some young children have died and if that happens it will be from a vaccine preventable illness."

The UK ordered 90 million doses of H1N1 vaccine and so far 4.63 million doses have been used in England.

However, Sir Liam denied the government had over-reacted: "We bought it as a precaution because it had to be ordered ahead of time - some of the early news from Mexico was very worrying.

"We acted on a precautionary basis and implemented a well-rehearsed plan."

An announcement is expected in around 10 days regarding what the government will do with its remaining stocks of vaccine.



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