Swine flu: What you need to know

New Zealand's swine flu outbreak has so far caused three deaths, sickness and school and work closures as the number of confirmed cases in this country continues to climb.

The spread of swine flu has also provoked fear and concern in communities with a new 0800 hotline bombarded with calls over the weekend. Over 1000 New Zealanders have now been confirmed with the virus.

nzherald.co.nz has compiled its own swine flu guide to help NZ families and other readers react to the threat of swine flu in their own lives.

Symptoms
H1N1 symptoms are very similar to seasonal flu.

- Fever
- Cough
- Sore throat
- Runny nose
- Body aches
- Chills
- Fatigue
- Vomiting or diarrhoea

The worst symptoms usually last for around 5 days.

The WHO says most people will experience a mild to moderate illness and will be able to manage the symptoms at home. People with heart or lung disease, asthma, poor immunity, or the young, elderly or pregnant are more at risk.

The virus is spread through sneezing and coughing and people may be infectious for up to a week after first displaying symptoms.

To date, more than 900 people have been confirmed as having swine flu in New Zealand.

Swine flu is believed to have arrived in the country via a group of students when they returned from a trip to Mexico in April.

Treatment
Vaccines are still in development and could be months away.

Antiviral drugs such as Tamiflu and Relenza fight the flu by stopping viruses multiplying in your body and speeding up recovery.

Tamiflu can be taken in capsule or liquid form, while Relenza comes as a fine powder which is inhaled through the "Relenza Diskhaler"

They are most effective if taken within 48 hours after symptoms first appear and can help to prevent further complications such as pneumonia.

Tamiflu costs between $65 and $75 depending on the pharmacy. Pharmacists can prescribe Tamiflu to people over 12 with flu symptoms.

Before the outbreak, the Ministry of Health had 1.25 million courses of Tamiflu stockpiled and it later bought 135,000 of Relenza.

What to do
If you experience flu-like symptoms, stay home until you have recovered. If your condition worsens or you experience any of the following, call your doctor or Healthline on 0800 611 116 for advice on the next step.

- High temperature
- Difficulty breathing
- Chest or stomach pain
- Coughing up green or bloody phlegm
- Blue skin
- Severe ear pain
- Fits or uncontrollable shaking

Containing the spread
In New Zealand, health officials were given the power to place people into quarantine. A Christchurch business closed temporarily when a number of workers contracted swine flu, and schools across the country also shut down in an effort to stop the flu spreading.

Food stalls in Mexico were closed down, sending cart-owners' profits plunging. Non-essential services were suspended and the country essentially shut down for five days; football clubs played to empty stadiums and cardinals delivered Mass in closed churches.

Australia required people entering the country to complete health declaration cards at border entry points, and refused a cruise ship permission to dock after three of its crew members were diagnosed with swine flu.

Hong Kong quarantined an entire hotel when the first Asian swine flu case was tracked back to it. A team of Hong Kong scientists was also assigned to develop a test to more quickly diagnose cases of swine flu.

China quarantined travellers upon touchdown, even those not identified as being at risk for the virus.

China, Russia and South Korea banned imports of some North American pork, despite the fact that flu is not spread through meat. Canada also quarantined hundreds of infected pigs.

More than 4000 schools in Japan closed down and public health warnings were broadcast at train stations and other public areas.

India's travel advisory discouraged people from travelling to the US, Mexico, Canada, France and NZ.

In the US, hundreds of schools closed down and both Cuba and Argentina banned incoming flights from Mexico.

Around the world
On June 11, WHO raised the worldwide pandemic alert to Phase 6 – the most severe – indicating a global pandemic.

As of July 3, 89,921 cases of swine flu and 382 deaths had been reported worldwide.

New Zealand has 1059 confirmed cases, and 3 deaths linked to swine flu.

The US has been the hardest hit, with 33,902 reported cases and 170 deaths.

In comparison
Mexico: 10,262 cases, 119 deaths.
Canada: 7983 cases, 25 deaths.
Chile: 7376 cases, 14 deaths.
UK: 7447 cases, 3 deaths.
Australia: 4568 cases, 9 deaths.
China: 1814 cases, 0 deaths.
Philippines: 1709 cases, 1 death.
Japan: 1446 cases, 0 deaths.

Click here to see a map of how the flu has spread around the globe.

- NZ HERALD STAFF

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