Media release from the Wairarapa District Health Board confirming their swine flu outbreak.
The outbreak of illness at five Wairarapa Schools is likely to be H1N1 influenza, after some swabs taken from children’s throats earlier this week have returned positive.
Medical Officer of Health, Dr Annette Nesdale said, “H1N1 is the predominant strain of flu in New Zealand this winter, so this result is not a surprise. These are the first confirmed cases in the Wairarapa this winter but it’s highly likely that other influenza-type illnesses are also this strain.” Dr Nesdale also said that now the prevalent strain has been confirmed, in most instances swabbing was no longer required, except in the hospital setting if patients had developed complications.
The outbreak was first notified to Public Health last Friday, and the team quickly swung into action. Information on influenza has been sent to all schools across the district to send home to parents. Parents are being advised to keep children home until they have been symptom free for 48 hours. The illness does not always present with coughs and sneezes, some children are experiencing stomach upsets with nausea, diarrhoea and vomiting. Information is now being sent to aged residential care facilities, though older people appear slightly less at risk than usual because the current strain is similar to the outbreak in 1957.
“Vaccination still provides the best protection and is very important for people who have other medical conditions,” said Dr Nesdale. “Immunity is not established for 10-14 days, though, so it’s possible to still get the flu during that time.” She advised people to contact their GP to inquire about vaccination to protect against influenza if they had not already been vaccinated.
Masterton Medical has reported more than 60 cases a day for the last three days of influenza-type illnesses. Influenza is highly infectious and easily passed to other people through coughing and sneezing. For this reason, people are being advised to phone Healthline for advice and avoid doctor’s waiting rooms where possible.
A media campaign is underway to help people understand how to look after themselves and others, and when to seek medical help.
Important ways of stopping the spread of illness are staying home if unwell, covering coughs and regular hand washing.
“If you are concerned or are getting worse or if you have an underlying medical condition such asthma you should contact your medical centre, as antiviral medicines will help, but need to be started early,” said Practice Nurse Helen Kjestrup.
Pregnant woman are also at higher risk of complications from influenza.
If you need more information phone Healthline 0800 611 116 or go to the Ministry of Health website on moh.govt.nz/influenza