'Bird flu' passenger likely to have gastroenteritis

A passenger who sparked an avian flu scare at Auckland Airport today was instead likely to be suffering from gastroenteritis, health officials have said.

This morning 223 passengers on board an aircraft from Korea were quarantined by St John Ambulance staff after a passenger was reported as having symptoms that indicated possible avian flu.

An Auckland Airport spokesperson said airline staff onboard the plane had alerted ground staff, setting in motion the airport's response.

St John spokesman Norman Upjohn said personnel wearing protective gear boarded the plane and a patient had been transported to hospital in a stable condition with suspected gastroenteritis.

Auckland Regional Public Health Service described the response to what happened on the flight as "routine".

Spokesman Dr Andrew Lindsay said that, in accordance with protocols, other passengers did not disembark until the patient had been assessed.

Details of people seated near the ill man were collated and they were provided with standard public health advice.

The patient was given a full examination in hospital and medical opinion was that he was suffering from gastroenteritis.

Dr Lindsay said ARPHS routinely attended such incidents at the airport and had standard procedures in place.

The Auckland Airport spokesperson said the response by airport staff and medical professionals showed they were ready and had an effective plan to handle any further alerts.

"We worked with everyone from public health and airport staff to initiate a plan that we had prepared for such an event."

The bird flu scare comes as an outbreak of the virus has been confirmed at a turkey farm in eastern England.

The British farm ministry said preliminary results from the farm on the border of Norfolk and Suffolk were positive for the H5 strain but it is not known if it is the deadly H5N1 variety which has swept across Asia, Europe and Africa.

All birds at the farm, which also houses ducks and geese, will be culled and protection and surveillance zones are being set up, the Department of Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (DEFRA) said in a statement.

- NEWSTALK ZB/REUTERS

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