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The national swine flu hotline will close down next week, the UK government has announced. The move comes as infection levels continue to drop, and the government winds down its prevention efforts.
Chief medical officer, Sir Liam Donaldson, has warned that swine flu is still a threat. Indeed, the figures show that at the end of January this year, there were 124 patients in hospital with the virus, 29 of whom were in critical care. However, as Sir Donaldson also pointed out, infection levels are currently at their lowest since the summer.
The hotline will cease to be active from February 11, and the NHS have justified the move through a statement, claiming that the service is no longer needed. At the height of the swine flu pandemic, the hot line received thousands of calls. It was originally set up to alleviate the pressure put on GPs and surgeries. Operators gave advice and support to those who were suspected to be carrying the infection. They also provided support to sufferers and their families.
The priority of the NHS is now to vaccinate patients. This particularly includes the elderly and young children, both of whom face a higher risk of contracting the virus. A massive 4.25 million doses of the vaccine have been administered to people across the UK so far. This has undoubtedly saved lives. Health officials are still strongly advising that those eligible for the vaccines, who have not yet received the jab, do so. A full list of eligible people, who fit into certain risk categories, can be found on the NHS website.
For anyone concerned that shutting down the hotline may be optimistic, the NHS has assured that the service can be started up again in within seven days.