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Six Deaths Linked To Swine Flu As Vaccine Running Low

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Fuseworks Media
Fuseworks Media
Six Deaths Linked To Swine Flu As Vaccine Running Low

Wellington, Aug 16 NZPA - Six deaths are being linked with swine flu this winter as more people call the influenza hotline and vaccine doses are expected to run out by the end of the month.

The World Health Organisation last week announced the swine flu pandemic was over and the world had entered a post-pandemic phase, but New Zealand is still experiencing the effects of a second wave of the H1N1 virus.

The deaths of a 22-year-old Hawke's Bay man, a 44-year-old Christchurch woman, a 38-year-old Wellington man, a 51-year-old Northland man and a 48-year-old Tauranga woman have all been reported linked to swine flu. However the Ministry of Health is not revealing details of the sixth death.

Four of the six are not confirmed as swine flu death while they are being investigated by the coroner.

Last year 35 deaths were linked to swine flu.

Ministry director of public health Mark Jacobs said so far this year there had been 389 people hospitalised with lab-confirmed swine flu.

Ten people remain in intensive care of the 59 admitted for intensive treatment.

Dr Jacobs said there were about 6400 influenza vaccinations still available.

The doses available were likely to run out by the end of the month, but the ministry was looking at options for extending immunisation while demand continued, he said.

"It's important to book in to get immunised now, as it takes up to a fortnight for the vaccine to offer its full level of protection."

Young children needed a longer time as they required two doses a month apart to be assured of best protection. Immunisation was especially recommended for pregnant women, very young children, severely overweight people and those with underlying medical conditions.

Schools were reporting routine levels of children being away from school due to illness -- based on information from selected schools around the country, at the end of last week no region was reporting average sickness rates above 15 percent.

The influenza hotline, Healthline (0800 611 116) handled around 1400 calls each day during the weekend, Dr Jacobs said.

Average call volumes were running nearly 35 per cent higher than normal seasonal levels and those requiring an assessment of influenza-like illness made up about a quarter of daily call volume, he said.

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