29 Apr 2009

Transit passengers in isolation not seriously ill

7:30 pm on 29 April 2009

None of the five transit passengers in isolation at Middlemore Hospital with suspected swine flu is seriously ill, says the Ministry of Health.

The five are among 16 passengers with flu-like symptoms who were detected at Auckland International Airport between late on Tuesday night and mid-morning on Wednesday.

Ministry deputy director of public health Fran McGrath says the nationality of the passengers will be released later.

Meanwhile, the Government is worried about the economic impact if the swine flu outbreak turns into a pandemic, but says it is too late to make note of it in next month's Budget.

Finance Minister Bill English says no new work has been done on the likely economic impact of a flu pandemic since the previous scare over bird flu.

Mr English says the Government is taking a measured approach and will just have to wait to see how the flu outbreak develops.

Number in isolation at 179

The number of cases of suspected swine flu continues to climb, with 179 people now in isolation in New Zealand.

There are also 14 confirmed or probable cases of swine flu.

Ministry of Health officials said on Wednesday that another three people with influenza A are also thought to have swine flu. On Tuesday night, they said there were 11 confirmed cases of swine flu - all from a Rangitoto College group who returned from Mexico on Saturday.

There are no more confirmed results from a World Health Organisation laboratory in Melbourne, but Auckland Hospital has confirmed that three more people have influenza A, which points to swine flu.

Officials say one of the three new cases is also from the Rangitoto College group, another was on the same plane as the group and the third was travelling in Mexico or the United States.

Health Minister Tony Ryall says an Order in Counsel has been put in place to help the Government respond to the swine flu outbreak. The order adds swine flu to the list of notifiable diseases.

Emergency powers would include making it easier to impose compulsory quarantine.

Auckland regional public health authorities say Rangitoto College students and their families deserve praise for following advice and staying at home.

Rangitoto College principal David Hodge says he has been receiving emails from people blaming the school for bringing swine flu into the country. A particularly nasty email came another passenger on the same flight as the students.

Mr Hodge says the students not develop symptoms until they were on the plane and the teachers did not know the seriousness of the illness until they arrived home.

In another development, authorities say five passengers on an international Qantas flight, transiting through New Zealand, have been treated with Tamiflu and put into isolation.

India overreacting - Key

Prime Minister John Key says India is overreacting by advising its citizens to restrict their travel to New Zealand because of the danger of contracting swine flu.

Mr Key says he has heard that some Asian tourists have cancelled their trips to New Zealand.

He says anything that deters tourists is negative, but New Zealand's position is similar to that of many other countries.

Australia gets tough

Australia's government has approved tough new powers to detain and disinfect people suspected of carrying swine flu as authorities await test results from 91 suspected cases.

But Federal Health Minister Nicola Roxon says she has no intention yet of forcibly detaining people unless the threat of a pandemic escalates.

The powers also allow authorities to use disinfectant on planes or at port facilities.

Fifteen Australians on the same flight as New Zealand students who contracted swine flu have been cleared of the illness.

Australia says only two of those showed any flu-like symptoms but had been cleared by their doctor.