Following the emergence of the Swine Flu pandemic in April this year, the HSE on May 1st set up a dedicated 24-hour Flu Information Line, Freephone 1800 94 1100, in response to demand from the public for information about Swine Flu.
The Flu Information Line offers recorded, up-to-date information about flu symptoms, what to do if you are worried you may have contracted the virus and other useful information which was updated regularly throughout the year as the pandemic evolved.
The HSE’s automated Flu Information Line received a total of 104,000 calls between 1st May and 23rd December this year. Calls to the Flu Information Line have been steady since the outbreak of Swine Flu began, with increased activity during July and August coinciding with the increase in cases both here and in the UK, and the anticipated return to school in September.
The highest number of recorded calls was during the week of November 2nd, with over 12,000 calls received as our vaccination campaign began. Currently the Flu Information Line receives approximately 7,000 calls per week.
In addition to this automated service, the HSE’s National Information Line provided a complementary manned response to specific queries on Swine Flu, assisting over 20,000 callers from April to December 2009.
Swine Flu was the fastest rising search term on Google in Ireland in 2009 and the www.hse.ie website acted as the key source of online information on the pandemic in Ireland.
A dedicated information section was set up on hse.ie on April 24th, which expanded over time, and became accessible through a new address, www.swineflu.ie .
The swineflu.ie mini-site has been updated daily, offering clear and up to date information on the pandemic and the HSE’s vaccination programme. The website has received excellent feedback from users, along with constructive comments which helped shape and improve the site over recent months.
Since April, the site has had approximately 1.7m page views of Swine Flu information, out of a total of 8.6 million page views in the period making Swine Flu the most popular web content on hse.ie by far. The most frequently visited page was the Vaccine Clinic list and booking page, which received a total of 208,000 page views, http://www.hse.ie/eng/services/swineflu/vaccine/where/book.html
The HSE website offers a wealth of information on services and schemes provided by the HSE. It also contains a new feature added in 2009 – the Map Centre.
This allows visitors to quickly enter their home address and locate their nearest health services on a map, as well as get contact details and even directions to and from the service. This was a well-used resource in finding GP/health service details for flu cases and in giving easy access to Vaccine Clinic locations, http://www.hse.ie/eng/services/maps/
In response to the pandemic, a wide range of information materials was published and distributed nationwide to households, GP surgeries, pharmacies, hospitals and HSE facilities, and was also available online at swineflu.ie.
These firstly provided information on this new flu virus and how to prevent and manage infection and illness and later provided detailed information on the Swine Flu Vaccine.
Information was published with the support of hundreds of public health and health professionals both in Ireland and internationally, and included dedicated material for GPs and Hospital Clinicians, Pharmacists, Ambulance staff, schools, universities and crèches.
“Getting the right information to the right people at the right time has been a very challenging but essential element of ensuring the success of the vaccination campaign to date. We will continue to strengthen existing channels of communications and search for new avenues to reach the remainder of the population throughout 2010. The challenge for all countries has been to supply useful, informative and instructive information without unduly worrying their citizens. I think we have achieved this goal for the first part of our vaccination programme in 2009,” HSE Director of Communications Paul Connors said.