New Zealand health officials are investigating an influenza-like illness amongst a group of 25 people from Rangitoto College, on Auckland\’s North Shore, following the group\’s return from a school trip to Mexico.
Swine influenza is feared to have killed up to 81 people in Mexico and has “pandemic potential”, the World Health Organisation (WHO) warned on Sunday, as concerns grow of the virus spreading in the US and worldwide. The Australian health department on Sunday warned travellers recently returned from Mexico to see a doctor if they have flu-like symptoms. Officials, including chief medical officer Jim Bishop are currently in talks to determine the nation\’s response to the threat. Flu fears in New Zealand The group of 22 senior students and three teachers arrived into New Zealand from Mexico via Los Angeles on Saturday, having spent three weeks in Mexico. Some of the group have symptoms of an influenza-like illness. They are being tested for swine influenza (a type of influenza A, H1N1) or another type of virus. The group of students and teachers have been placed in home isolation until preliminary test results are known. Auckland Regional Public Health clinical director Dr Julia Peters said: “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.” Rudd govt too slow in response: Greens Australian Greens leader Bob Brown says the government knew of the threat on Saturday but only issued a health alert on Sunday morning. “It should have been on the front foot on this yesterday,” he told AAP. “I don\’t know how much earlier they knew about it but they certainly did know yesterday. “Every day in dealing with a pandemic is absolutely crucial.” Senator Brown said the airports should be on alert for people coming into Australia from the Americas. “The public needs to be assured that there is a very high alert at all ports for people coming into Australia, particularly from the Americas,” he said. More than 1,000 infected More than 1,300 people in Mexico, Texas, California, Kansas and New York are infected and it\’s feared a flight attendant may have taken the flu to Britain. A British Airways cabin crew staff member is being treated in a London hospital with “flu-like symptoms” after arriving on a flight from Mexico City, British health officials say. Senator Brown said it was inevitable swine flu would hit Australia. “The only way of not having that would be to close Australia to flights,” he said. “We should also be looking to see how we can help neighbouring countries if it does become a pandemic.” Hong Kong was considering putting travellers through heat sensors to check for raised temperatures, Senator Brown said. Australia had stockpiles of two drugs – oseltamivir (Tamiflu) and zanamivir (Relenza) – which may be sensitive to swine flu, he said.