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Key Says NZ Well Prepared To Handle Swine Flu

Fuseworks Media
Fuseworks Media

Wellington, April 27 NZPA - New Zealand is well prepared to handle swine flu and has increased surveillance, Prime Minister John Key says.

Mr Key said the Government was invoking its flu plan and health officials hiked the potential influenza epidemic status to yellow, just below the code red response phase.

"I think New Zealanders can be confident that the government has a plan, that plan was put in place quite a number of years ago when we were concerned about avian bird flu," Mr Key told Breakfast on TV One.

Ten Rangitoto College students have tested positive for influenza A after they came down with mild flu symptoms on returning from Mexico on Saturday. People on the flight are being checked out.

Health Minister Tony Ryall this morning said a further three children, from Northcote College who also visited Mexico, have started developing symptoms.

Two other schools Pinehurst and Westlake Girls High Schools, were also on trips and were yet to return home.

The flu has killed up to 86 people in Mexico and likely sickened about 1400 in the country since April 13.

The flu has spread far beyond Mexico's borders with 20 confirmed cases in five US states and suspected cases in Canada and France as well as here.

Mr Key said the plan set up since the 2003 bird flu scare meant New Zealand had good stocks of the Tamiflu vaccine -- about 1.4 million treatments and the single gateway into New Zealand via Auckland meant control was easier.

Options included people not being allowed onto Air New Zealand flights if they were ill and those who arrive at Auckland being sent by a doctor stationed there since 5am for checks.

He urged people who suspect they may have the flu to see a doctor, for sick people to stay home and precautions like hand washing and covering mouths when sneezing to be taken.

Mr Key said the 10 cases of influenza A appeared to be mild.

The World Health Organisation (WHO) laboratory in Melbourne would determine if the strain was actually swine flu.

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