22 Jul 2009

11th person dies from swine flu

8:40 am on 22 July 2009

A child with underlying medical conditions has become the latest person to die from swine flu in New Zealand.

The death takes the total number of deaths from swine flu in New Zealand to 11.

The Ministry of Health says the child died within the past week in the MidCentral District Health Board region centred on Palmerston North.

It says it was asked by the family not to disclose the child's age, sex or where the death occurred.

The ministry says there has also been a spike in the number of people seeing their family doctor for influenza-related illnesses, especially children and teenagers.

Consultation rates are highest in south Auckland, Wellington and south Canterbury.

There are 74 people in hospital with swine flu, 26 of whom are in intensive care. Half of those in intensive care are in hospitals in Auckland.

The Government says swine flu has not yet peaked and health services remain under pressure.

Authorities prepared for more cases

Health authorities say they are prepared for a possible increase in swine flu cases which the Health Ministry says could happen as a result of children returning to school from holidays this week.

However, hospitals are also warning that surgery and scheduled appointments might be cancelled at short notice, as the virus puts increasing pressure on services.

Health officials are advising parents to keep their children at home after the holidays if they are displaying flu-like symptoms and teachers are being told to stay away if they are ill.

Deputy director of public health Fran McGrath says children who have flu-like symptoms should stay at home until they are well and are no longer coughing or sneezing.

Extra flu centres for Canterbury

Two more flu centres have opened in Canterbury to cope with the increasing demand for swine flu treatment.

The Canterbury District Health Board says the new services will be based in Rangiora and Rolleston and staffed by local doctors and nurses.

The opening of the new centres has been prompted by a rise in the number of out-of-town patients coming into Central Flu Centre in Christchurch.

Head of the Canterbury Primary Pandemic Group Dr Phil Schroeder says increasing numbers of patients are coming into town from the Selwyn and Waimakariri districts, and it makes sense to open local centres for them.

The World Health Organisation has announced the global death toll from swine flu has reached 700, and says school closures could be considered by governments to stop the spread of the disease.

Britain's health ministry said last week 29 Britons had died after becoming infected with the H1N1 virus and said it was planning to cope with as much as a third of the population falling ill.

Measles also likely to spread

In Canterbury, where there has also been an outbreak of measles, Medical Officer of Health Dr Cheryl Brunton says schools provide the possibility of widespread transmission, especially since the illness is infectious a day before symptoms appear.

Since the beginning of June, 47 cases of measles have emerged in Canterbury, more than all cases of measles in New Zealand last year.

Dr Brunton says infected children will have travelled during the school holidays and measles cases may start appearing in other regions soon.

Measles incubates for up to 21 days, she says.