Swine flu: Positive result shock for student victim

By Jacqueline Smith, Audrey Young, Martin Johnston, Isaac Davison

Have you been affected by the swine flu scare?
Email the Herald Newsdesk

One of three confirmed New Zealand swine flu victims is shocked to have been diagnosed with the disease blamed for killing scores of people in Mexico.

Rangitoto College student David Graham, 16, spoke to the Herald last night from home quarantine after health officials said that laboratory tests had confirmed three people have the disease.

New Zealand is the sixth country in the world to have confirmed cases of the new swine influenza A virus.

The virus has killed 152 people in Mexico and had infected nearly 2000.

Cases are also confirmed in the US, Canada, Scotland and Spain.

Samples from 10 people from Rangitoto College with influenza, who were part of a 25-person school group which returned from a trip to Mexico on Saturday, were sent to Melbourne for testing on Monday.

An 11th person has tested positive for influenza A.

The Melbourne laboratory analysed the four samples which were in the best condition for testing. Of those, three were positive and one is awaiting confirmation.

Director of public health Dr Mark Jacobs said: "On the basis of these results we are assuming that all of the people in the group who had tested positive for influenza have swine flu.

Health Minister Tony Ryall said: "Tonight New Zealand can unfortunately confirm that students recently returned from Mexico have tested positive for swine flu ... their symptoms were mild and all are recovering. This is the pattern seen in countries outside of Mexico."

Rangitoto College principal David Hodge said he was shocked but he did not consider the news would alarm others at the school.

David Graham said he and his family had watched in bewilderment as almost every national and international news bulletin was headlined by stories about them, or relating to them.

"I just didn't feel as though the symptoms we have now would be enough for it to be swine flu. Hearing about all the people dying and being hospitalised, I just didn't feel as though I was in that league."

The family were surviving their quarantine with an email chain running between parents and students, watching movies and internet shopping for their food.

The World Health Organisation has raised its pandemic alert to phase four on its six-point scale, where six is a pandemic. Phase four is when there is evidence of increased human-to-human transmission of the new virus.

WHO director-general Margaret Chan said the widespread presence of the virus meant the outbreak could not be contained, and the focus should be on measures to limit the harm it inflicted.

Health officials have contacted all but 18 of the 356 people on board Air New Zealand flight NZ1 from Los Angeles, which carried the the Rangitoto College group.

The ministry's advice remains that anyone who has recently returned from the affected areas and has flu-like illness should phone a doctor.

Flu fears were mounting yesterday, and some parents were trying to distance their children from Rangitoto College students.

Kristin School, a North Shore private school, refused to play netball against Rangitoto for fear of contracting swine flu.

The Herald was also told that parents from North Shore schools refused to send their children on the same school bus as Rangitoto students.

Mr Hodge said the five boys who had been sent home on Monday because they had played a soccer game with one of the students being treated as a "probable" swine flu case had been assessed by the public health service and deemed fit to return to school.
The quarantined students were told they could return to school tomorrow unless the test results from Melbourne suggested otherwise.

The school was last night arranging for all the quarantined students to have homework sent to them, by email, or in packages left in their letterboxes.

Screening will continue today at Auckland Airport.

Airport spokeswoman Sarah Aldworth said 795 passengers on four flights from the United States went through extra processing yesterday.

- Audrey Young

- NZ Herald

Your views

© Copyright 2014, APN New Zealand Limited

Assembled by: (static) on red akl_a3 at 30 Jul 2014 12:25:05 Processing Time: 574ms