Health officials conserve Tamiflu stocks

By Martin Johnston

Auckland health officials are conserving their stocks of Tamiflu for all except those who are sick, as the swine flu pandemic continues to spread through the community.

Dr Julia Peters, the clinical director of the Auckland Regional Public Health Service, said yesterday that from the start of New Zealand's epidemic of swine flu in late April, Tamiflu had been given to contacts of the sick, even when they had no symptoms, as well as to the sick themselves.

In the cluster of cases that emerged at Westlake Girls High School over the weekend - Auckland's first without any known link to overseas travel - the one confirmed case, a Year 12 girl, and 10 suspected cases were offered the anti-flu drug Tamiflu.

And as a precaution, all 450 Year 12 pupils were put into voluntary home isolation for a week. Dr Peters said those without symptoms were not being given Tamiflu. "We are using social distancing and isolation to reduce the spread, where initially we were giving everyone Tamiflu. We are just looking at how we can best use the Tamiflu that we have."

The Ministry of Health says most people who catch the virus will have a mild to moderate illness. Those with mild symptoms should look after themselves at home, but those with underlying health problems are advised to call the Healthline (0800-611-116) or their GP.

Dr Fran McGrath, the deputy director of public health, said the ministry was talking to flu vaccine makers about supplies of a swine flu vaccine, but could give no indication of when one might be available.

The ministry has previously said it could take several months after the World Health Organisation declares a pandemic, which it did last week.

- NZ Herald

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