New pandemic flu service launched

TODAY (Thursday) the Government has launched a National Pandemic Flu Service, made up of a dedicated website and call centres that can quickly tell you if you have swine flu. In Hertfordshire, two antiviral collection points are opening – one in Watford a

TODAY (Thursday) the Government has launched a National Pandemic Flu Service, made up of a dedicated website and call centres that can quickly tell you if you have swine flu.

In Hertfordshire, two antiviral collection points are opening - one in Watford and one in Welwyn Garden City - in response to this new service and to deal with the increasing numbers of people with swine flu.

Dr Jane Halpin, Director of Public Health at NHS Hertfordshire, said: "The new arrangements mean a change to what people should do if they think they may have swine flu.

"If you have flu-like symptoms such as a sudden fever, cough, a headache, sore throat, tiredness, aching muscles, sneezing, runny nose or loss of appetite you should use the new National Pandemic Flu Service.

"The telephone number is 0800 1 513 100 (open 8am until midnight every day) and the web address is www.direct.gov.uk/pandemicflu

"If you are diagnosed as having swine flu then you will be given a special authorisation number which you can use to obtain antivirals (Tamiflu) if you choose to do so."

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You should give this special authorisation number to your flu friend - a friend or relative who does not have swine flu - to pick up your antivirals from one of the two collection points.

You will be told where the collection points are once you have been diagnosed with swine flu, and your flu friend should take two forms of identification with them - one for you and one for themselves.

More collection points may open in the coming weeks.

People should contact their doctor direct rather than using the National Pandemic Flu Service if they have a serious underlying illness, if they are pregnant, if they have a sick child under one year old, if their condition suddenly gets much worse, or if their condition is still getting worse after seven days (five for a child).

Dr Halpin said: "Please do not contact your GP for information or for a diagnosis unless you are in one of the high risk groups.

"People who turn up at an antiviral collection point without an authorisation number will not be able to get Tamiflu.

"It is important that you do not go to the antiviral collection point if you are ill - use your flu friend.

"It is important to remember that for the majority of people swine flu remains a relatively mild illness. However, a small minority of people have developed more severe symptoms and sadly some individuals have died.

"Taking antivirals is the cautious approach. You may choose to stay at home instead and rest, drink plenty of fluids and take over-the-counter flu remedies such as paracetamol to help relieve the symptoms.

"Remember there are simple steps that everyone can take to help prevent catching colds and flu based on good respiratory and hand hygiene. Always use a tissue to catch your sneezes, throw away used tissues where germs can linger and regularly wash your hands."

People who require information about swine flu should contact NHS Direct on 0845 46 47 or www.nhsdirect.nhs.uk

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