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Swine flu cases rise as screening continues

Published: 11:45AM Thursday April 30, 2009 Source: ONE News/NZPA

There are now three new confirmed or probable cases of swine flu in New Zealand, taking the country's official total to 16.

All have tested positive for influenza A and have recently returned from Mexico or the United States. All 16 are Auckland-based.

One is a child of a passenger, although the Health Ministry says every patient is continuing to recover well.

There are now 111 suspected cases, up from 96 on Wednesday. These are people who have flu-like symptoms, have been to the US or Mexico in the past week and have been tested for influenza A.

There's a third group, a further 121 who are in isolation on the anti-viral drug Tamiflu as a precaution, up from 111.

They include Grey District Mayor Tony Kokshoorn who was put into quarantine at home on Thursday, one day before a scheduled meeting with Prime Minister John Key.

Kokshoorn and his family flew home from a holiday in Hawaii and North America a day before the flight that carried the flu strain to New Zealand. A family member is now taking Tamiflu as a precaution and being tested for influenza A after becoming sick five days later, Kokshoorn says.

"Want to stress I haven't got the flu. I've never been better," he says.

The ministry says its focus is now to "contain and mitigate", border vigilance to keep it out and Tamiflu and isolation to stamp it out.

The next move is to announce on Friday a location for what's called a community assessment centre or c-bac in Auckland, a place where they will take suspected swine flu cases, away from the hospital emergency department. Middlemore is the preferred location as it is close to the airport where all the cases so far have come from.

"The growth in suspect numbers is primarily from close family contacts from passengers on flights," Health Minister Tony Ryall told a press conference on Thursday.

"As you know we are working hard to identify people potentially with swine flu so we can provide them with treatment and support and limit the spread of the flu," Ryall says.

All suspect cases are being given the Tamiflu anti viral drug.

The Ministry of Health says all the confirmed cases have so far had only mild flu symptoms, and are on the mend or have recovered.

The World Health Organisation now says a global swine flu pandemic is imminent, and has lifted its alert level to five after confirmation of deaths now in two countries.

The toll in Mexico stands at 159, but the death of a toddler in the United States signals the first fatality outside of Mexico.

Tamiflu over the counter
You can buy the drug that's effective against the swine flu without a doctor's prescription from Friday.

Tamiflu is routinely available over the counter every flu season from May to September.

Chemists nationwide have reported a rush in prescription demand for the drug this week.

But officials say over-the-counter access to the drug will be limited.

The head of the Medical Association is urging people to think carefully before they part with their money to buy the drug.

Medical Association chairman Peter Foley says unless people have had contact with someone with influenza, flu -like symptoms are most likely to be a common cold.

Tamiflu costs $75 for a course of treatment and needs to be taken within the first 48 hours of symptoms emerging.

Keep up to date with the latest news no matter where you are with our dedicated swine flu Twitter feed. -  http://twitter.com/SwineFluInNZ PLUS Health correspondent Lorelei Mason will be keeping you in the loop on how she is covering the story as it develops - http://twitter.com/SwineFluNZNews

Got on opinion on this new health concern? Share your thoughts on the message board below.

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  • alwyn said on 2009-06-18 @ 14:34 NZDT: Report abusive post

    The general flu causes between 200,000 and 250,000 deaths p.a world wide. Swine flu has caused only a fraction of this number in proportion. There is a temporary cure i.e. Tami flu until a vaccine is produced for H1N1 flu. I don't understand what all the fuss is about?

  • Janey said on 2009-06-16 @ 09:36 NZDT: Report abusive post

    I think NZ media and health service has been far too blase about this outbreak. The UK's BBC news website has been reporting symptoms and PREVENTION for weeks and has an excellent outbreak map, which clearly shows quick acceleration of the virus. The UK's health service posted information leaflets to every home WEEKS ago. My husband works in a a business where the workers come into contact with lots tourists - they only just received a booklet on the virus 2 days ago. NZ, get with the programme!

  • skeptic said on 2009-06-16 @ 07:57 NZDT: Report abusive post

    Thank you Mark Sainsbury for telling us the symptoms, and debunking the mythology. Many of us did not even know that we probably have the swine flu which is probably now widespread in our community. It was clear from the outset that authorities were not taking the drastic steps necessary to contain an epidemic. Since they have created an elaborate ritual to prove that they have done everything possible ... Thank God this was not a SERIOUS pandemic.

  • FightFlu said on 2009-05-04 @ 23:41 NZDT: Report abusive post

    I absolutely agree Tis, this particular virus could have been a lot worse. Due to information technology these days we have highly accessible and up to date information to keep us informed, and with knowledge is power. As long as the people remain calm, and keep informed we should be able to keep the Swine Flu at a safe distance.

  • Tis said on 2009-05-02 @ 11:33 NZDT: Report abusive post

    This scare could perhaps prepare us well for a more severe future pandemic - e.g. Ok, so all the focus is on Tamiflu - but what about ensuring enough antibiotics to treat secondary infections from a new influenca - and do we have enough of those machines in hospitals to help people breath when they are in acute respiratory distress - lets hope so!