The National Pandemic Flu website and helpline were today said to be receiving normal levels of calls now that the nations’ journalists had stopped phoning up with fake symptoms and had moved on to discussing the location of Michael Jackson's nose.
“The service peaked shortly after it was launched with some 2,600 journalists using the website each second,” said a spokesman for the NHS. “It takes each journalist four or five goes through the flowchart to then be prescribed the Tamiflu they don't need and it was this that caused an overload on the service.”
In addition to the website traffic the helpline received a further 10,000 calls from journalists impatient at a trial-and-error approach to the computer's questions and were hoping to be able to charm a call-centre worker - who has only had basic training - into agreeing to release one more pack of medication for a very weak strain of flu, just in case.
“This whole system is a complete sham,” said TV reporter Tessa Billingsworth. “After half a dozen goes on the website, and studying Wikipedia, I was able to waste valuable time and resources by phoning up with pretend symptoms from a completely different disease and they gave me Tami-Flu. To make sure we got different angles for the piece to camera I actually had to pretend to be several different people, it took hours and tied up at least three people's time. I was a disgrace.”
The National Health Service says that since the initial flurry of stories spread so quickly, call rates have dropped to a much more manageable number.
“Now that the kids have broken up for the summer holidays the chances of a last minute cheap deal have gone so we should see infection rates drop,” said a spokeswoman. “Especially as the airports are on the look-out to detect all the 'sick-notes' who have got themselves two extra week's holiday by getting their family to cough down the phone to the helpline.”
However the government re-stated its warning that infection rates are expected to pick up in the autumn as seasonal flu rates rise naturally and people fancy extending their summer by jetting off to the Mediterranean and need an excuse to take the kids out of school.
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