31 Mar 2009

NZ health officials to help Tokelau control flu outbreak

3:25 pm on 31 March 2009

New Zealand health officials plan to help Tokelau control a flu outbreak.

The Ministry of Health says nearly 10% of the islands' population of 1500 people are reported to have contracted an influenza-like virus.

The school on Atafu, the northern-most of the country's three atolls, has been closed, public gatherings halted and sick people advised to stay home.

Deputy director of public health Fran McGrath says health officials in Tokelau, which is under New Zealand administration, have asked for help from New Zealand officials.

She says New Zealand also plans to send medical supplies to help ease outbreak symptoms like fever and muscle aches.

Wellington nurse Bronwen Markham and an official from the World Health Organisation are expected to arrive in Tokelau by Thursday with about 1400 flu vaccinations.

Ms Markham says children are more prone to contract the flu because of their hygiene habits.