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Response to Influenza A (H1N1) Threat

Update on Health Response to Influenza A (H1N1) Threat

Health officials have received laboratory advice of the first two cases of confirmed Influenza A (H1N1) in the Bay of Plenty and Lakes DHB regions.

Medical Officer of Health Phil Shoemack says the first case is a 15- month-old child who is holidaying in New Zealand with his American family. The swab taken from the child at Taupo Hospital ED mid-week has returned positive. When the child was taken to Taupo Hospital ED the family had been in New Zealand for five days.

Dr Shoemack says the family was tracked down at a relative's place in Wellington, and the public health follow-up work is being carried out by Hutt Valley staff. The American family and relatives the family is staying with has been asked to stay put in the household and await further instructions from the public health staff.

The second confirmed case is a Tauranga teenager who visited her GP during the week with flu-like symptoms. While a swab was taken from her, because she had no history of overseas travel or contact with a confirmed case, she was sent home with what were thought to be seasonal flu symptoms. Once the laboratory test for Influenza A (H1N1) was returned

late on Saturday (13 June), public health staff called and arranged follow-up of the family and other close contacts.

Dr Shoemack says public health staff in the Bay of Plenty are following up on the young woman's flatmates, staff at her workplace and other close contacts.

Lakes and Bay of Plenty DHBs have been jointly planning and preparing since late April when the first suspected cases were identified in New Zealand. The number of people

being managed by the Lakes and BOP public health unit is continuing to steadily increase.

Late last week the World Health Organisation declared the influenza A (H1N1) swine flu outbreak as a pandemic and moved to a phase 6 alert which recognises widespread community transmission of the virus around the world. Phase 6 means that WHO considers that a global pandemic is underway - it means nothing about the severity of the illness or this strain of influenza, rather it relates to how quickly and how widely the virus is spreading.

Dr Shoemack said the timing of the WHO declaration of a pandemic is spot on in terms of the way the outbreak is progressing in New Zealand. He says people need to be prepared for more widespread transmission of the new H1N1 influenza virus.

The Ministry of Health advice is that people who have travelled overseas but who are well do not need to be routinely excluded from school or work on their return. But if they have flu symptoms within seven days they should call their doctor or Healthline (0800 611 116), and not go to school or work.

At this time, the Ministry of Health is not recommending cancelling or postponing overseas travel during the upcoming school holidays which start on Saturday 4 July. The situation in both New Zealand and internationally is being constantly reviewed, but it is not possible to predict what the situation will be in New Zealand or other countries in early July.

In most cases, people with influenza can safely recover at home and will not need to see their GP or emergency clinic. However, people should seek medical advice when necessary, especially if their condition worsens. Seeking medical advice is particularly important for people with underlying medical problems who are at higher risk of complications from influenza.

If you have recently travelled and develop influenza symptoms, it is still important that you phone for medical advice - Healthline 0800 611 116 or your own GP. Please don't turn up at the doctor's rooms or emergency department, as you can spread the virus to other people.

ENDS

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