NHS West Essex issues swine flu advice

CHANGES to the way potential swine flu cases are handled are being introduced on Thursday February 11. The National Pandemic Flu Service, which has been running since July last year, currently provides patient assessments over the telephone and has an onl

CHANGES to the way potential swine flu cases are handled are being introduced on Thursday February 11.

The National Pandemic Flu Service, which has been running since July last year, currently provides patient assessments over the telephone and has an online call service.

Due to falling levels of swine flu within the population, it is closing at midnight on Wednesday February 10.

After this time anyone who suspects that they have swine flu will need to contact their GP by telephone only.


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People who think they have swine flu should not go to their GP practice, pharmacy, the Walk-in Centre or local Accident and Emergency department.

GPs will ask various questions about your symptoms and if they suspect that you have swine flu will issue you antivirals using a voucher.

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You should not collect this voucher in person but ask your 'flu friend' - a friend or relative who does not have the symptoms - to go to the GP practice and collect a voucher. They should then take it to one of the five community pharmacies in west Essex that are acting as Antiviral Collection Points.

While the number of swine flu cases in west Essex has been relatively low, people in the 'at risk' groups are still being encouraged to have the vaccination.

Additionally the vaccination programme for young children, aged six months to five years, is continuing.

Director of Public Health with NHS West Essex, Alison Cowie, said: "It is extremely important we do not allow the current low levels of influenza-like illness and the stand down of the National Pandemic Flu Service to lead to a sense of complacency.

"There is still considerable uncertainty about how the virus will behave over the coming months and years. Experts have advised that the H1N1 strain from this pandemic will the predominant influenza virus in the next flu season."

She added: "It is therefore vitally important that people in the at-risk groups - those aged over six months and in the seasonal at-risk groups, pregnant women, those who live with immuno-compromised individuals and children aged over six months and under five years - are immunised.

"Letters have been sent to parents and guardians of children aged under five years by the PCT and GP practices over the past few weeks and I encourage them to make an appointment at their GP practice for their child to have a swine flu jab.

"If we can protect many more people before the next flu season starts later on in 2010 then lives can be saved.

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