Fourteen people confirmed as having swine flu have died in New Zealand, the chief coroner said yesterday.

A Ministry of Health spokeswoman said the official death rate from swine flu was 11. However, the office of chief coroner Judge Neil MacLean said he was investigating the deaths of a further three people who had the virus.

A 30-year-old woman died in hospital on July 19, and a 28-year-old man died at home on July 13. The third death was a 39-year-old man. All were from Auckland.

All 14 people had other health problems, a spokeswoman from Judge MacLean's office said.

There are now 2525 confirmed swine flu cases in New Zealand, up from 2477 on Wednesday.

However, one estimate suggests the number of community cases could be up to 30 times higher.

Nick Wilson of Otago University - in a paper published this month - studied United States data showing 2.3 cases of common flu in the community for every case presenting at the doctor's surgery.

However, in the case of a pandemic - where patients are advised to remain at home, laboratories can quickly become overwhelmed with samples, and priority is given to serious cases - the difference between community cases and laboratory-confirmed cases can be between 10 and 30 times.

Dr Wilson yesterday told the Herald it would not be until the H1N1 wave had passed - possibly in early spring - that more accurate statistics would be available about the virus's spread. Director of Public Health Mark Jacobs yesterday said medical staff were continuing to learn about the virus, but had a lot of work still to do.

"There is a range of estimates about just how infectious the virus is, and we don't yet know how many people are getting mild illness."

Meanwhile, Samoan authorities have refused to confirm or deny that Prime Minister Tuilaepa Sailele Malielegaoi is a recent H1N1 influenza sufferer.

After a recent visit by Prime Minister John Key, reports began to surface in Samoan media that Tuilaepa had been tested for the virus.

But rather than deny rumours, the Samoan Prime Minister pointed out at a local news conference that he was still strong and healthy.

"Do I look like a pig?" he asked during questioning about the virus last week.

As of last week, there were 29 confirmed cases of H1N1 influenza, or swine flu, in Samoa.

Government press secretary Uale Taimellalagi yesterday refused to talk about the Prime Minister's health.

"Forget about that, the PM is well and strong. If he had tested positive for swine flu, I couldn't say."

Coincidentally, Mr Key was last week spotted suffering from a cold. Swine flu was not the culprit, and he remained at work.