New Zealand school isolates 30 swine flu suspects (Lead)

May 1st, 2009 - 2:15 pm ICT by IANS  

Wellington, May 1 (DPA) More than 400 New Zealanders were in voluntary isolation Friday in an effort to limit contacts with potential victims of the influenza A(H1N1) strain which Health Minister Tony Ryall insisted he would keep calling swine flu because the public understood the term.
Ryall said four people had been confirmed with the disease and another 11 were probable victims, having tested positive for influenza A.

Another 121 were suspected cases of people displaying flu symptoms who have been to Mexico or North America recently.

The remainder were identified by officials as people in voluntary isolation and taking Tamiflu antiviral medication because of contact with suspects.

“I suspect those numbers will continue to rise,” Ryall told Radio New Zealand, pointing out that the country was entering its normal winter influenza period.

The numbers included 26 students in a New Zealand college orchestra and four teachers being treated as suspected victims after some developed flu-like symptoms when they returned from a trip to North America, including California.

The Lindisfarne College in Hastings sent most of the boys home but a number of boarding pupils were put into isolation at the school’s hostel, the Hawke’s Bay District Health Board said.

All were offered Tamiflu antiviral medicine and samples taken to test whether they have contracted the influenza A(H1N1) strain.

Cabinet Minister Nick Smith was cleared of swine flu Friday after testing positive for influenza A. He had gone into voluntary isolation and was taking Tamiflu as a precaution after developing a “wicked fever” on return from his honeymoon somewhere in Asia. The exact location of his trip was not disclosed.

Health officials said that all known cases were showing symptoms “around the mild end of the spectrum” for influenza.

New Zealand pharmacies were allowed to start selling Tamiflu without requiring a doctor’s prescription for the first time Friday, but only to people showing flu symptoms and buying it in person.

The health ministry rejected pharmacists’ claims that this risked spreading the disease and said it wanted to avoid panic buying which would run down stocks and create a black market for the product.

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