23 Jun 2009

Confirmed cases of swine flu continue to climb

8:06 pm on 23 June 2009

Health officials say the number of confirmed cases of swine flu in New Zealand is now 364.

The Health Ministry says the number of laboratory-confirmed cases has jumped by 61 on Tuesday.

However, the exact number of people with swine flu or seasonal winter flu is not clear, as health authorities have stopped testing all but the most serious cases of flu.

Deputy director of public health Fran McGrath says the total of 364 is clearly an under-estimate.

Dr McGrath says the number of people phoning or visiting their doctor with flu is a more accurate measure, and that has risen steeply in the past fortnight.

Health Minister Tony Ryall told Parliament that as of Tuesday, 12 of the country's 21 District Health Board areas have moved to a strategy of managing swine flu, rather than trying to contain it.

Another four DHBs are likely to make that change by the weekend.

Meanwhile, health authorities say swine flu will probably boost the annual death toll from regular seasonal flu. But findings of a telephone survey released on Tuesday indicate that few New Zealanders are concerned.

The UMR fortnightly telephone poll indicates that, though 64% of New Zealanders are following swine flu developments closely in the media, less than 30% are concerned.

First cases in Northland

Northland Health has confirmed the region's first three cases of swine flu and says it is now focusing on managing the disease.

Medical Officer of Health Loek Henneveld says people should try to avoid close contact with others who are sick and stay home for seven days if they become ill.

Dr Henneveld says swabbing and testing will now only be carried out on more serious cases and flu clinics will be set up if and when the need arises.

He says it is important to remember that swine flu has not proven to be worse than the usual winter flu.

Queenstown prepared for ski season

Queenstown has rolled out a plan to ensure it continues to operate during the swine flu pandemic.

Queenstown Lakes District Mayor Clive Geddes says hundreds of thousands of tourists are expected to begin arriving for the ski season from the end of this week.

Mr Geddes says the council has been meeting with major businesses, the airport and health professionals.

All accommodation providers in Queenstown have a robust plan to deal with the situation, including allowing visitors on holiday to isolate themselves if they catch swine flu.

He says Queenstown is going to be on the front-line in coming weeks as visitors begin pouring into the resort, especially from Australia.