West Coast mayor in isolation before meeting PM

By Martin Johnston, NZ Herald staff, Jacqueline Smith

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Swine flu precautions have put Grey District Mayor Tony Kokshoorn under quarantine at home today, one day before a scheduled meeting with Prime Minister John Key.

Mr Kokshoorn and his family flew home from a holiday in Hawaii and North America a day before the "swine flu flight" that carried the flu strain to New Zealand.

A family member was now taking Tamiflu as a precaution and being tested for influenza A after becoming sick five days later, Mr Kokshoorn said today.

He said the family believed it was no more than strep throat, and if the tests were negative the quarantine would be lifted tonight.

However, if they came back positive for type A influenza, further tests would be done to determine if it was swine flu. The quarantine would also be extended.

The mayor's first appointment tomorrow is with Mr Key at 9am, a meeting he is eager to attend, but he may still be in quarantine.

Mr Kokshoorn said it was frustrating being a prisoner in his own home but appreciated the authorities were doing the right thing.

Across the Tasman thermal scanners were being installed at eight Australian international airports today, with passengers recording high temperatures referred to clinical staff for nose and throat swabs.

In New Zealand, community based centres to deal with swine flu patients are to be set up around the country.

The number of Kiwis in isolation and being treated with the anti-virus drug Tami flu is now 111 nationwide with 104 being suspected of having Influenza A.

According to the statistics, Auckland has the most people isolated with 72 and the only probable cases of Influenza A with 13.

Medical authorities are treating those that test positive for Influenza A as having swine flu.

Director General of Health Stephen McKernan said Middlemore Hospital was being considered as the centre for the Auckland region.

Mr McKernan said Middlemore would make an ideal centre because of its proximity to the airport.

He told a media conference in Wellington that Middlemore would allow isolation areas away from the airport at the same time as providing treatment.

The Hawkes Bay and Taranaki each have two people isolated and being treated with Tami flu and two suspected cases of influenza A.

The Waikato has four cases of people being isolated and treated with Tami flu and four with suspected cases of influenza A.

The suspected cases include people who are displaying flu symptoms and have travelled overseas through areas with swine flu or have come into contact with people with swine flu.

The Whanganui region has seven cases of people being isolated, treated with Tami flu and suspected of having influenza A.

Wellington, and the Wairarapa area have 16 people in isolation and 18 cases of suspected Influenza A, while further south Nelson has eight and Christchurch 2.

Mr McKernan said other DHBs had been contacted to consider where they could locate community based centres in their region.

New Zealand was still in a "containment phase", he said.

Health minister Tony Ryall said New Zealand was working under a policy of "contain and mitigate".

Mr Ryall said health authorities were trying to contain the virus at the borders but also treating patients with swine flu with isolation and Tami flu.

He said 33 countries around the world had now reported cases of swine flu.

The World Health Organisation this morning raised its pandemic alert for swine flu to the second highest level, meaning that it believes a global outbreak of the disease is imminent.

Mr Ryall said there had been a growth in the numbers of people being isolated who were, in most cases, family members of people who had travelled or come into direct contact with people who had flown to North America.

The number of suspected cases of swine flu include five international travellers who landed in Auckland yesterday.

They were treated and are being kept in isolation at a secret location.

Deputy Director of Public Health Dr Fran McGrath yesterday said the rise in numbers reflected the increased effort being made to detect cases.

The number of probable cases include 12 from the Rangitoto College group that returned on Saturday from Mexico, via Los Angeles. The other is a person who was on the same Air NZ flight as the college group.

In Mexico, health authorities say the virus is thought to have killed 159 people and infected more than 2000.

But the World Health Organisation said early yesterday that the death toll of confirmed cases was seven - all in Mexico, where it said there had been 26 confirmed human cases.

That number increased to eight late last night when the US Centres for Disease Control said a 23-month-old child in Texas had died - the first reported fatality outside Mexico.

The US government has also reported 91 laboratory confirmed human cases.

The WHO said Austria had confirmed one case of swine flu, Canada 13, Germany three, Israel two, Spain four and the UK five.

FLU FACTS

Annual figures for the various forms of influenza in NZ put the swine-flu alert in perspective:

* 47,700 estimated number who caught influenza between May and September last year.

* 42 per cent had the A strains of virus.

* 58 per cent had the B strains.

* 100 deaths a year are caused directly by flu.

* The number of flu cases and the A/B split vary greatly each year. Last year's flu season was considered moderate.

- additional reporting: AP

- NZ Herald

Anyone who has travelled to Mexico or North America in the last seven days should contact Healthline (0800 611 116) for information. They should seek medical advice if they are displaying flu-like symptoms. Click here for the Ministry of Health’s influenza website.

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