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Swine flu latest PDF Print Email
Gillian Merron, the public health minister, today announced that The National Pandemic Flu Service, which was set up to offer telephone and online advice and assessments for people worried that they might have swine flu, is to close next week.

The number of new swine flu cases has fallen to a point where the service is no longer needed. It will stop offering assessments from February 11.

The service was established when the pandemic first began to ease pressure on GP's by assessing patients to enable them to get antiviral medicine if needed.

New cases of swine flu in England fell to their lowest level over Christmas since the outbreak first began.

The Department of Health said today: "Our priority remains to vaccinate those most at risk from swine flu, as people are still in hospital from the virus and sadly some have died.

"This is the first time we have had a vaccine to protect people while a pandemic virus has been circulating, so it has undoubtedly helped us save lives. People who are being vaccinated now may also be protected against swine flu next winter.

"However, given the current welcome reduction in the number of cases, and the need to make sure our response to the pandemic remains proportionate, we have decided to close the National Pandemic Flu Service, including the online and phone self-care service, at 1am on February 11 2010.

"If required we can have the NPFS back up and running in seven days."

If you think you have swine flu symptoms in the future, stay at home and contact your GP who will be able to assess you. Your GP will also be able to advise you on antivirals and vaccination if appropriate.

The latest on Swine flu cases

    * In England, the rate of GP consultations for flu like illness was 12.1 per 100,000 population for the week ending January 17 2010.
    * There were then 211 patients in hospital with swine flu in England, 62 of whom were in critical care.
    * The Health Protection Agency's overall estimate of the number of cases was below 5,000, where it had been for three weeks.

Vaccination programme

By mid-January:

    * The total estimated number of front-line health and social care workers vaccinated in England was 387,000.
    * The total number of vaccine doses administered to the priority groups in England was 3.7 million. This figure includes 132,000 pregnant women and 214,000 healthy children aged six months to under 5 years.

Who is a priority for vaccination?

People who are most at risk from swine flu need to be vaccinated first. These groups are, in order of priority:

    * People aged between six months and 65 years in the seasonal flu vaccine at-risk groups.
    * All pregnant women. The European Medicines Agency has indicated the vaccine can be given to pregnant women regardless of their stage of pregnancy.
    * People who live with those whose immune systems are compromised, such as cancer patients or people with HIV/AIDS.
    * People aged 65 and over in the seasonal flu vaccine at-risk groups.
    * Healthy children aged over six months and under five years old.

Frontline health and social care workers have also been offered the vaccine at the same time as the first clinical at-risk groups. Health and social care workers are both at an increased risk of catching swine flu and of spreading it to other at-risk patients.

What are the seasonal flu vaccine at-risk groups?

These are people with:

    * chronic respiratory disease, such as chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD)
    * chronic heart disease, such as heart failure
    * chronic kidney disease, such as kidney failure
    * chronic liver disease, such as chronic hepatitis
    * chronic neurological disease, such as Parkinson's disease
    * diabetes requiring insulin or oral hypoglycaemic drugs, and
    * immunosuppression (a suppressed immune system), due to disease or treatment.

Who is at greatest risk of serious complications from swine flu?

Some people are more at risk of complications if they catch swine flu than others, and need to start taking antivirals as soon as it is confirmed that they have the illness. Doctors may advise some high-risk patients to take antivirals before they have symptoms.

It is known that people are particularly vulnerable if they have:

    * chronic (long-term) lung disease
    * chronic heart disease
    * chronic kidney disease
    * chronic liver disease
    * chronic neurological disease (neurological disorders include motor neurone disease, multiple sclerosis and Parkinson's disease)
    * immunosuppression (whether caused by disease or treatment), or diabetes mellitus.

Also at risk are:

    * pregnant women
    * patients who have had drug treatment for asthma in the past three years
    * people aged 65 and over, and
    * children under five.

Patients with swine flu typically have a fever or a high temperature (over 38°C / 100.4°F) and two or more of the following symptoms:

    * headache
    * unusual tiredness
    * runny nose
    * sore throat
    * aching muscles
    * loss of appetite
    * shortness of breath or a cough
    * diarrhoea or vomiting

Call your GP if:

    * you have a serious underlying (existing) illness
    * you're pregnant
    * you have a sick child under one year old
    * your condition suddenly gets much worse, or
    * your condition is still getting worse after seven days (five for a child).

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Reduce the risk of catching or spreading flu

    * Cover your mouth and nose when coughing or sneezing. Use a tissue.
    * Dispose of used tissues carefully.
    * Wash your hands frequently with soap and water or alcoholic hand rub.
    * Clean hard surfaces (e.g. kitchen worktops, door handles) frequently using a normal cleaning product.

Advice for pregnant women

Pregnant women are one of the higher risk groups for swine flu, as they are for all influenza viruses. It is therefore important for them to take precautions.

Catch it, Bin it, Kill it

The most important way to stop it spreading is to have good respiratory hygiene (i.e. sneezing and coughing into a tissue) and hand hygiene (keeping your hands clean). It is important to catch any sneeze in a tissue, placing it quickly in a bin and washing your hands and surfaces regularly to kill the virus.