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2009 Swine Flu Pandemic Influenza Update

(PR.co.nz) Update 165 for H1N1; Overall, rates of pandemic influenza remain at a low level in New Zealand. The Ministry of Health is actively reviewing response activities and preparing for an anticipated upsurge of influenza activity in 2010.

If you’re travelling overseas during the holidays, check for the latest advice at www.safetravel.govt.nz. This includes making adequate preparations prior to travel, consulting your doctor if needed, and taking basic protective measures such as regular handwashing. New Zealanders with flu-like symptoms are advised to consider delaying their overseas travel.

Vaccine update
Seasonal flu vaccine usually arrives early in March and the traditional flu ‘immunisation season’ runs from 1 March to 30 June.

In 2010, the plan is to run the flu immunisation programme as soon as vaccine is available. We had hoped this would be from mid-February, but due to the time taken to produce sufficient vaccine to meet international demand, it may well be March before the bulk of our vaccine arrives. The Ministry of Health is in close contact with the vaccine manufacturers to ensure supplies will be available as soon as possible.

Weekly consultation rates for influenza-like illness in New Zealand, 2007-2009

Influenza Consultant Rates 2007 to 2009

Source: Institute of Environmental Science and Research, Influenza Weekly Update 2009/47

Sentinel surveillance data from the Institute of Environmental Science and Research shows the current level of pandemic influenza activity in New Zealand is below baseline levels.

Positive result for Phoenix players

Wellington Phoenix Football Club is surprised some players have tested positive for swine flu, but had not shown symptoms.

Three of eleven players have returned positive blood results showing they have previously been exposed to the virus and developed immunity to it.

The players were tested as part of a study investigating the proportion of New Zealanders who have caught pandemic influenza (H1N1), commonly known as swine flu. The study is being conducted by Environmental Science and Research (ESR) for the Ministry of Health.

Blood samples are being taken from 2500 people randomly chosen from selected general practices throughout the country to see how many people have been infected by the virus and how many remain at risk of catching it in the future. The results, expected in March, will help with planning for possible future pandemic waves.

Samples from the Phoenix players were taken for an additional component of the study involving groups at higher risk of exposure, such as frequent travellers and health care workers.

Wellington Phoenix spokesman John Mitchell says the results were unexpected, as no players had shown any sign of the illness and they were convinced their results would be negative.

Director of Public Health Dr Mark Jacobs says one of the important things we don’t yet know about the virus is how many people have been infected without even realising it. The results from this small group suggest that might prove to be very common.

Dr Jacobs says it is really important that people agree to take part in the study if they are asked to do so, given the importance of the information to be obtained from the study.

People who take part in the study will get to know their results.

International situation
The World Health Organization reports that as of 11 December 2009, worldwide more than 208 countries and overseas territories and communities have reported laboratory-confirmed cases of pandemic influenza H1N1 2009, including at least 9596 deaths.

More information on the global progress of the pandemic is available on the WHO website.

In the temperate zone of the northern hemisphere, pandemic influenza activity has passed its peak in North America and in parts of wenstern, northern and eastern Europe, but activity continues to increase in parts of central and southeastern Europe, as well as in south and east Asia. Influenza transmission remains active in much of western and central Asia and there is evidence of pandemic virus circulation in most regions of Africa.

Media Release 16 December 2009 from Dr Mark Jacobs, Director of Public Health for the Ministry of Health

 



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