13 Jun 2009

Swine flu vaccine not available until after winter

11:33 am on 13 June 2009

The Ministry of Health says any vaccine for swine flu is not likely to be available until after winter.

The World Health Organisation on Thursday declared the first influenza pandemic since 1968, raising its pandemic flu alert to phase six on a six-point scale.

More than one million New Zealanders could get swine flu over the course of the pandemic, according to the Ministry of Health.

New Zealand has a long-standing contract with an Australian-based pharmaceutical company to provide a vaccine once it is developed.

Deputy Director of Public Health, Darren Hunt said it will not be used to shield the population as a whole from the virus, and is not likely to be available until after winter.

Nine new cases of swine flu

The number of confirmed cases of swine flu in New Zealand rose to 36 on Friday.

All the new cases are reported as having mild symptoms.

Two Auckland sisters aged 10 and 13 have been admitted to Starship Children's Hospital with respiratory symptoms.

The other cases, which include a 73-year old woman in Wanganui, are being treated at home with Tamiflu.

In Wellington, a 20-year old woman, 22-year old man and 8-month-old boy from the same household have the virus, as well as two other people in their 20s.

Health Minister Mr Ryall told Morning Report that New Zealand already has a tight containment strategy in place and there will be no change to that in the wake of the pandemic declaration.

He says the number of cases is bound to increase because of the international situation, but repeats that there is no need for alarm as the pandemic status relates to spread, not severity.

School takes swine flu precaution

In Christchurch, Cobham Intermediate School is advising parents that students who travel overseas stay home for at least a week before returning to school.

Principal Trevor Beaton says the advice, sent to parents in a newsletter, is simply a suggestion as the school does not have the power to insist on the measures.

The Maritime Union is calling on waterfront employers and ship owners to guarantee they will continue paying any workers who have to be quarantined for swine flu.

Maritime Union secretary Trevor Hanson says his 2,800 members are among the most exposed to the virus because they are on the front-line of the country's borders and tourist operations.

Earlier this week, the Northern Employers and Manufacturers Association rejected a call from the Engineering, Printing and Manufacturing Union for compensation for workers forced into isolation.

Contacts being traced

The Auckland Regional Public Health Service was on Friday continuing to trace those who have been in contact with an Auckland nurse and her child who both have swine flu.

They were among four new cases confirmed on Thursday. The other two cases were in Waikato.

The service's clinical director, Dr Julia Peters, says health workers will try to ensure those who were in contact with the woman and child are quarantined and given Tamiflu.

The Auckland nurse and her child both tested positive for swine flu after returning to New Zealand on Saturday from a holiday in Britain.

The nurse subsequently worked one shift at Auckland City Hospital, prompting the closure of the renal medicine and transplant ward to new admissions.

Nineteen staff were in quarantine on Friday, five patients were being cared for in isolation, and four operations had been postponed.

The ABC Learning Centre in Meadowbank, which the nurse's child attended, has been closed until Tuesday.