Britain’s swine flu hotline, launched seven months ago, during the height of the pandemic, was switched off today after a steady fall in the number of cases reported.

The government set up the service, available on the telephone or online, in July to give people who thought they were infected access to anti-viral drugs, taking some of the pressure off conventional health services.

"The National Pandemic Flu Service (NPFS) has now closed," a website statement said.

Announcing the closure last week, public health minister Gillian Merron said it could be restarted within days if there was a surge in flu cases.

"We will continue to monitor the spread of the swine flu virus, and, should it become necessary, the NPFS can be re-activated in seven days," she said.

Britain was among the first countries hit by swine flu after it emerged in Mexico early last year, and at one point recorded more than 100,000 new cases a week as the virus was officially declared a pandemic.The latest update from the Department of Health, on February 4, said new cases of swine flu remain near their lowest level since the virus first appeared in the UK.

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