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Swine Flu - Update 143


    Media Release

      26 August 2009

Pandemic Influenza (H1N1) 09 Swine Flu - Update 143

The amount of influenza in the community continues to decline as winter draws to a close, but health officials say people should continue the good hygiene habits they have developed in order to reduce their chance of getting and spreading influenza as well as a myriad of other infections which circulate all year.

Pandemic influenza (H1N1) 09 swine flu has been the dominant influenza strain in New Zealand this winter and although it looks to be abating as the weather warms up, it is unlikely to disappear completely.

Deputy Director of Public Health, Dr Fran McGrath says this virus will continue to cause influenza because most of us have not been exposed to the virus and have no immunity to it.

She says, "People have really taken heed of the tried and true hygiene messages - cover coughs and sneezes, wash your hands often and stay home if you are sick.  These simple action appear to have helped delay the spread of this virus and lessened the impact of this pandemic on our communities.This really is an example of people being concerned for each other and working together as a community to protect one another."

The hard work of health practitioners, District Health Boards (DHBs), border control agencies and wider communities helped contain this pandemic influenza and delay its initial spread by six or seven weeks. This enabled plans to be put in place to ensure people would get the services they needed, and  health services would be able to manage the increased patient load.

Dr McGrath says,"The health sector has done that very well overall. DHBs report there has been less gridlock in hospitals than expected, and we hear there are fewer absences from schools and work places."

Continuing good hygiene habits of covering coughs and sneezes, hand washing and staying at home while sick will limit the spread of most communicable diseases, including measles, meningitis and skin infections.

Dr McGrath says the focus is now on planning to be ready for any increase in cases in the coming months, and ensuring health services can respond rapidly if the virus becomes more widespread or more virulent.

Latest Numbers
There are a total of 3114 confirmed cases of Pandemic Influenza (H1N1) 09 swine flu, up from 3106 when last reported on Monday. These are people who have returned a positive laboratory test for pandemic influenza (H1N1) 09. The actual number of cases of Pandemic Influenza (H1N1) 09 will be significantly higher, as only a small proportion of people with symptoms are being tested. This is because for most people, it's a mild illness and they recover readily at home without needing medical treatment.

As mentioned above, the number of deaths from Pandemic Influenza (H1N1) swine flu is now 16. These are deaths where swine flu was a primary cause. Other deaths are being investigated by the Coroner's office.
Numbers of people in hospitals with the Pandemic Influenza (H1N1) 09

As at midday today, a total of10 people are reported to be in hospital with Pandemic Influenza (H1N1) 09 or its complications, including six people in intensive care.

The number of patients currently in intensive care with confirmed Pandemic Influenza (H1N1) 09 broken down by region is as follows:

Auckland (2), Waitemata (1), Wellington (1), Canterbury (2).

School absences

In general, schools are reporting usual levels of absence for this time of year, while only a minority of schools are reporting either lower or higher levels.

Healthline Calls

Healthline has continued to receive a high number of influenza-related calls over the past week, although numbers have decreased since peaks in mid-June and early July.   The total number of calls answered by Healthline nurses continues to be about 20 percent above normal levels.

GP Consultations

The data below are from Environmental Science and Research's (ESR) sentinel general practice surveillance system. It shows that at its peak, the weekly influenza-like illness (ILI) consultation rates this year were nearly three times higher than the winter peak experienced in the last two years. The number of ILI consultations has decreased over recent weeks, but there are different pictures of influenza activity across regions and across some age groups.

Australian Situation

For the number of confirmed cases in Australia, go to the Australian Government's Department of Health and Ageing website at:

http://www.healthemergency.gov.au/internet/healthemergency/publishing.nsf/Content/updates

International Update from the World Health Organization

The WHO reports that transmission of the pandemic influenza (H1N1) 09 virus is declining globally, especially in temperate regions of the southern hemisphere (with the exception of South Africa). Active transmission is still seen in some later affected areas of Australia, Chile and Argentina even as national rates decrease.

The virus continues to spread in the northern hemisphere, although areas first affected by the virus are seeing less activity. Areas of tropical Asia are reporting increasing rates of illness

The H1N1 virus is now the dominant influenza strain in most parts of the world, and is expected to remain so during the coming northern hemisphere influenza season.

The World Health Organization is no longer issuing tables showing the numbers of confirmed cases for all countries.

This is because in many countries, laboratory testing is being carried out on only a small number of people and the numbers of confirmed cases no longer give an accurate picture of spread the spread and extent of the virus. For more information about this reporting change go to the WHO website: http://www.who.int/en/

ENDS
     

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