Posted on June 14th, 2009 No comments
Health officials are setting up specialist swine flu centres as the number of cases soars.
Health Minister Tony Ryall confirmed yesterday that Capital and Coast District Health Board had set up one of New Zealand’s first swine flu assessment centres at Wellington Hospital. Other district health boards were likely to follow.
“It diverts people away who may have flu symptoms from hospital and emergency departments and GP clinics.”
The number of nationwide swine flu cases doubled over the weekend, from 35 on Friday to 71 yesterday.
Darren Hunt, the Health Ministry’s deputy director of public health, said the weekend’s rise signalled a new phase of the pandemic and the number of cases was expected to rise steeply.
The ministry has moved its response to phase six, one of the highest health alert levels, opening the door for radical measures including the declaration of a national state of emergency. Restrictions could be placed on public gatherings, including sports events. During the Mexican outbreak, big football matches were played in empty stadiums.
There were no plans to cancel Saturday’s second rugby test between the All Blacks and France, Dr Hunt said. However, anyone with flu symptoms should stay away. “It’s a prime opportunity for coughing and sneezing over a lot of people.”
Wellington City Council will outline plans today to deal with the growing number of cases. Mayor Kerry Prendergast said options included closing buildings where large crowds gathered, such as libraries and swimming pools. “We are a long way from that, but you have to have these plans in place.
“Senior council managers have been working out how we will cope if Wellington is greatly affected by swine flu.”
Challenges included keeping essential services such as water supply and sewerage systems going if large numbers of people are off sick or stuck at home.
Mr Ryall said that, although New Zealand’s swine flu cases had been mild and most people recovered at home, there was still potential for it to swamp hospitals and clinics.
“If swine flu takes hold as is expected, that means a whole lot more people have flu, which means a whole lot more people might be turning up at emergency departments and GP clinics. Every day that we can delay it is another day that we might not grind the health system to a halt.”
Swine flu symptoms include fever, cough, sore throat, stuffy nose, body aches, headache, chills and fatigue. Some people also have diarrhoea and vomiting.
Seventy-four countries have reported 29,669 cases and 145 deaths. Up to 30 per cent of the population might eventually contract swine flu, Dr Hunt said.
Swine flu cases doubled over the weekend, from 35 on Friday, to 71 yesterday. It is now spreading in the community, and not just among people who have travelled overseas.
In Wellington, 12 new cases were reported, including a recruit at the Police College in Porirua. Other recruits were being treated with Tamiflu and isolated.
The Health Ministry moved its response to phase six, opening the door for radical measures such as declaring a national state of emergency.
Tamiflu given to 50 pupils at Burnside High School, Christchurch, after a 13-year-old confirmed with swine flu.
Year 12s at Auckland’s Westlake Girls’ High School told to stay home after a fellow pupil is diagnosed.
Australia has 1458 cases, with more than 1100 in Victoria.