Situation in New Zealand – August 19, 2010

New Zealand is still in its Winter which means flu season is ongoing. And the second wave of pandemic flu infections is well underway.

From the New Zealand Ministry of Health, August 19, 2010

Influenza H1N1 activity is continuing to increase, and the Ministry of Health is now providing twice-weekly updates.

As at 8am this morning, there have been 454 hospitalisations of lab-confirmed pandemic influenza H1N1 this year to date in New Zealand, including 14 people currently in intensive care with confirmed H1N1. There have been a total of 67 admissions of confirmed H1N1 to intensive care so far this year. These figures do not include influenza-like illness among people admitted to hospital without a positive H1N1 lab test result.

Pandemic influenza H1N1 is the most common strain of influenza circulating in the community, although most people will not be tested for it. For the majority of people it’s a mild to moderate illness, but for some it can be serious.

So far this year there have been nine deaths reported as linked to swine flu. Six of these deaths have so far been confirmed as being due to swine flu. The three deaths reported since Monday’s update – all confirmed as due to swine flu – occurred in the Waitemata, Auckland and Waikato DHB areas. Further information on these new cases is available from each DHB’s website.

There continues to be strong uptake of recommendations to seek medical advice early. Healthline handled over 2000 calls from people with influenza-like illness last week. Call volumes are running at around the same rates they were at this time last year during the pandemic. Calls requiring an assessment of influenza-like illness made up about a third of all calls during the last week.

GPs are continuing to see increasing numbers of people with influenza-like illness. In the last week there was a notable increase in the number of pre-schoolers being seen by GPs.

The accompanying graph gives no indication that a peak of infections has been reached. We don’t know how many people will ultimately become sick or die from pandemic flu in New Zealand this year. However, the current pattern of illness is NOT what would be expected from seasonal flu. Although official information regarding the ages of the New Zealanders who have died in the current wave is limited, media reports suggest that the victims have mostly been among the young and middle-aged.

From Stuff.co.nz, August 18, 2010

Hauraki Gulf Island’s councillor Denise Roche has first-hand experience of the virus. Her cousin’s wife died of swine flu in Tauranga in June. She was 48 and not physically compromised.

Ms Roche says: “Ironically I was so sick with it myself I was unable to travel to the funeral.”

The virus debilitated Ms Roche for a month.

“For the first time I wished I’d had a flu shot because this flu affected my breathing – which has never happened to me before and it was quite scary.”

Pandemic H1N1 shows no signs of becoming more benign. The pandemic continues in New Zealand.

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