Swine flu cases confirmed on Coast

By Laura Mills and Janna Sherman

A mild June kept flu at bay but it has now arrived on the West Coast and doctors have warned of a spike in cases.
Influenza A-H1N1, also known as swine flu, has been confirmed in Hokitika and Buller.
West Coast medical officer of health Dr Cheryl Brunton said the first case arose about two weeks ago, confirmed by a swab. However, the number of cases was probably higher as people may not go to their GP.
“Flu is now in the community. We would expect to see, over the period of time, more cases,” Dr Brunton said.
She encouraged people to get vaccinated now, as the vaccine could take two weeks to fully kick in.
The free vaccine for people aged 65 years and over, pregnant women, and those with long-term health conditions was due to end shortly, but the Government this week extended it until the end of August as surveillance showed flu cases were rising and not yet peaked.
The vaccine covers the A-H1N1 strain.
“I wouldn’t recommend anyone waiting,” Dr Brunton said.
She said a mild June appeared to have kept flu numbers down, but a colder July had sent people indoors, spreading germs.
In Hokitika, Westland Medical Centre GP Dr Anna Dyzel said both the influenza A-H1N1 cases diagnosed last week were linked to a patient who had recently visited Wellington.
“We are at the pre-disaster stage,” Dr Dyzel said. “If people get vaccinated they are going to be protected and we can stop it getting a hold in the community. It hasn’t got hold enough yet for it to be a major problem.”
In 2009, when a global swine flu pandemic was declared, 40 cases were dealt with on the West Coast. Nationally, more than 3000 cases were confirmed and 19 people died.
“There are approximately 200 people eligible for free flu vaccines who have not as yet come in. Because of the urgency of the problem, we will fit people in for the vaccine if they just come round,” Dr Dyzel said.
“With the cold you feel miserable ... but you can keep going. The flu lays you out, you are seriously unwell.”