Suspected swine flu outbreak among New Zealand students

April 26th, 2009 - 1:50 pm ICT by admin  

Auckland, NEW ZEALAND (BNO NEWS) – The Auckland Regional Public Health Service (ARPHS) is investigating an influenza-like illness among a group of 25 people from Rangitoto College and swine flu is suspected, the agency said in a statement on Sunday afternoon.

The group of 25 people, 22 senior students and 3 teachers, arrived in New Zealand from Mexico on Flight NZ1 on Saturday. The group spent about 3 weeks in the country and the flight they took made a stop in Los Angeles. Some people of the group have shown symptoms of an influenza-like illness.

The department was first notified at approximately midday (local time) on Saturday by calls from a general practitioner from the North Shore and an infectious disease physician at North Shore Hospital who the general practitioner had called for advice. “ARPHS took immediate action to investigate the situation and to follow-up on the group of travelers. ARPHS communicated immediately with the Ministry of Health in Wellington and has continued to work closely with the Ministry of Health,” it said in a statement.

“As a precaution in view of the international situation, preliminary tests are underway to determine the cause of the illness and to exclude or confirm swine influenza or another type of virus,” said the department. The group of students and teachers have been placed in home isolation until further notice and their family has been given advice regarding infection control precautions. The Auckland Regional Public Health Service said it is supporting the families and is providing advice to the Principal of Rangitoto College and is keeping the Ministry of Education informed.

At around 2.30 a.m. Eastern Time, Sally Young, who is a spokeswoman for the department, told BNO News it had already received preliminary test results. “We are going through some results now, but we have to talk to the individual people we’re looking after first before we’re going out to the press on those,” Young said. “We expect to be able to make an announcement later this evening.” She said the announcement would likely come from the Ministry of Health.

“We are taking this very seriously and doing everything necessary to manage this situation in Auckland. The Ministry of Health is managing the response to this issue at a national level,” said Dr. Julia Peters, Clinical Director of the Auckland Regional Public Health Service.

Further, the department is urging travelers who have returned from Mexico or affected parts of the United States who have symptoms of influenza to seek medical attention before returning to work or school. “Anybody experiencing warning signs of severe influenza illness such as rapid breathing, difficulty breathing, chest pain, severe vomiting or if a child is not responding or is difficult to wake up, should get urgent medical attention,” read the statement.

“New Zealand has to take this situation extremely seriously,” it concluded.

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