23/07/2009

Swine Flu Line To Be Launched As 100,000 Further People Are Diagnosed

The number of those diagnosed with swine flu in the last seven days has reached 100,000 - more than double of the total the previous week in England.

The shocking new figures have been released on the day that the National Pandemic Flu Service is due to be launched across England, allowing people who think they may be infected with the H1N1 virus to obtain antiviral drugs.

The freephone hotline - which will be open from 8am until midnight - has been designed to relieve the pressure of the National Health Service (NHS), and it would give flu sufferers access to anti-flu drugs, without the need to consult a GP.

Around 1,500 call centre staff will be employed, with the option of recruiting 500 more.

The initial 1,500 will be capable of answering more than 200,000 calls a day - or more than a million calls a week.

If it is suspected the caller has swine flu, they will be given a unique reference number, allowing them to pick up antiviral drugs from the otherwise secret locations.

The sufferer will then send a "flu buddy" to pick up the drugs, who will have to present ID for the patient and the reference number when they collect the medication.

Last week there were an estimated 55,000 new cases. There are 840 patients currently in hospital, 63 of whom are in intensive care.

Chief Medical Officer Sir Liam Donaldson will also announce the latest number of deaths linked to the virus, with the death toll currently standing at 31.

The National Pandemic Flu Service's website is: www.direct.gov.uk/pandemicflu and the phoneline is 0800 1 513 100 or 0800 1 513 200 (Textphone) for people to check their symptoms and get a unique number which will give them access to antivirals if necessary.

Andy Burnham said: "The National Pandemic Flu Service will give patients access to information and antivirals as quickly as possible. It will free up GPs so they can focus their efforts on helping those in at risk groups and patients with other illnesses.

"People can still speak to their GP if they are concerned. In fact - it is important to stress that people with underlying health conditions, pregnant women, and parents with children under the age of one should speak to their GP if they have symptoms.

"For the vast majority of people, swine flu has been mild. Some people find that they get better by staying in bed, drinking plenty of water and taking over the counter flu medication."

(JM/BMcc)

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