Health Warning: Flu from the Same Strain as H1N1 Spreading in New Zealand

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By Reissa Su | March 27, 2014 6:52 PM EST

A flu strain similar to the H1N1 or more commonly known as swine flu is currently sweeping over New Zealand. The pre-winter flu virus has prompted health authorities to encourage New Zealanders to have their flu shots early.

REUTERS
Here Fofu, 4, screams while her mother Abena holds her as a nurse injects a shot of the H1N1 flu vaccine, in Arlington, Texas November 24, 2009.

According to reports, the flu pandemic is caused by the same flu strain, which struck down 780,000 people in 2009. One in every three school-age children had the flu.

Hawke's Bay Hospital has already reported eight cases of H1N1. One female patient in her 50s has remained in critical condition for 13 days. An office in Wellington came in contact with the flu virus in February while people from Christchurch and Omauru were reported having the acute illness only within the week.

Local reports also confirmed two cases of H1N1 in the small farming town of Geraldine in South Canterbury. The town has suffered the flu virus that almost closed down the local general physician after staff became unwell with the virus.

Dr. Darren-Hunt, director of Public Health, said a national monitoring and surveillance of the flu has found that the virus is "about the same level" that the agency would expect at this time of year. But it was rare for a flu virus to spread so widely in a community, according to virologist Dr. Lance Jennings. He said on March 26 there was "something unusual" happening with the flu.

Dr. Jennings, spokesman for National Influenza Specialist Group, said the flu could be serious and people have been hospitalized because of the virus. He added some people might be hit harder by the virus than others.

Immediate Flu Shots Needed

Health officials are calling on New Zealanders get flu shots immediately in light of the recent flu cases. Dr. Jennings has advised people to get immunized to have the best chance of protection. The H1N1 or swine flu virus can cause serious health complications to pregnant women and younger, healthy people. The good news for Kiwis is the flu virus is still covered by the 2014 flu vaccine.

Local reports said Tamiflu is seen as the most effective anti-viral medicine to fight H1N1. The total number of flu cases in New Zealand for 2014 is not yet clear. But the Ministry of Health has confirmed that more than 540,000 people have been given flu shots.

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(Photo: REUTERS / Jessica Rinaldi)
Here Fofu, 4, screams while her mother Abena holds her as a nurse injects a shot of the H1N1 flu vaccine, in Arlington, Texas November 24, 2009.
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