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Fears over swine flu diagnosis by phone

Almost nine out of 10 GPs believe diagnosing swine flu over the phone means other diseases could be missed, a poll has found.

Infections such as tonsillitis or bronchitis may be overlooked as well as serious diseases such as meningitis, they said.

The survey of 251 GPs found 87% answered yes when asked the question: “Does diagnosing swine flu over the phone mean other diseases may be missed?”

Another 10% were unsure and just 3% said no.

The Government's National Pandemic Flu Service for England consists of a telephone service as well as a website.

So far, about half of people being diagnosed with swine flu are receiving their diagnosis over the telephone by non-medical staff working from a checklist.

But today's poll, for GP newspaper, found family doctors were concerned about the practice.

In additional comments, one GP said: “Saw a case today of measles which was diagnosed over the phone as swine flu.”

Another said: “Without question. The symptoms are so vague and wide ranging, swine flu can masquerade as a vast array of other diseases.”

Another said “a death will occur from meningitis” while another said: “Patients are making up symptoms in order to get Tamiflu and for example meningitis or tonsillitis or bronchitis/pneumonia may be missed.”

One doctor said it was “blindingly obvious that a telephone diagnosis will very rarely, but very significantly, miss an alternative diagnosis which could lead to severe morbidity or mortality.”

One doctor said he had already seen two patients with severe tonsillitis and one with a knee infection who were prescribed Tamiflu over the phone.

Meanwhile drugs giant GlaxoSmithKline has said it is making “rapid progress” on its swine flu vaccine as governments worldwide pre-ordered another 96 million doses.

The group revealed it had signed nine more government contracts for the vaccine, taking total doses ordered to 291 million.

GlaxoSmithKline is hoping to make a vaccine for the H1N1 virus available to governments from September onwards, with shipping expected in the second half of 2009 and early 2010.

But while Glaxo is confident the first vaccine will be ready from next month, it said it was unsure how quickly it can be produced to fulfil the necessary orders.

Belfast Telegraph


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