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Auckland School Group Suspected Of Having Swine Flu

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Fuseworks Media
Police take precautions in Mexico.
Police take precautions in Mexico.

Wellington, April 26 NZPA - An Auckland school group is being tested for potentially fatal swine flu after returning from Mexico with flu-like symptoms.

The results are expected later this evening, as three teachers and 22 senior students from North Shore's Rangitoto College were kept in isolation following their return yesterday from a three week language trip.

More than 80 people in Mexico are believed to have died and over 1300 are sick as a result of catching swine flu. Cases have also been reported in New York, California and Kansas and a British Airways pilot has been hospitalised in London with flu symptoms after returning from Mexico.

Scientists have warned for years about the potential for a pandemic caused by viruses that mix genetic material from humans and animals.

Auckland Regional Public Health Service (ARPHS) said today some of the group had symptoms of an influenza-like illness and were remaining in home isolation as a precaution while tests to exclude or confirm swine influenza were carried out.

Rangitoto College principal David Hodge said the students, aged from 15-18 in years 11-13, had spent most of their time in Mexico City on the Spanish language trip.

Thirteen of the eight boys and 14 girls and one of the three female teachers from the school's languages department had showed some flu like symptoms such as body aches and coughing, he told NZPA.

One student had been hospitalised overnight with a respiratory complaint, but it was believed not to be cause by swine flu and they had been discharged today.

None had been "desperately" unwell, Mr Hodge said.

He thought it was "highly, highly unlikely" to be swine flu.

It was not uncommon for people to get sick after travelling, especially to somewhere different like Mexico and any kind of flu could have spread easily between the group, Mr Hodge said.

"I'm very anxious for the students, but lets take it one step at a time. Lets not panic and get carried away."

The students and teachers would not return to school until the all clear had been given, he said.

Unlike cases overseas the students had not been at school in contact with their peers.

"If it should eventuate that they have this flu, then its been contained immediately, which is fantastic.

Ministry of Health spokesman Michael Flyger told NZPA the results of tests were expected this evening.

He said at this stage other passengers on the flight were not being sought and the next step would depend on what the tests showed.

In the meantime the students and teachers had been told to stay at home in isolation and ARPHS was briefing their families and the school on infection control precautions.

While the virus' spread was considered serious enough for WHO declare a health emergency, Mr Flyger said it had proven responsive to drugs.

"We're not looking at (the horror film) 28 Days Later."

ARPHS clinical director Dr Julia Peters said the service was "taking this very seriously and doing everything necessary to manage this situation in Auckland".

Dr Peters said anyone returning from Mexico or other places affected with the flu who had symptoms should visit a doctor before returning to work or school.

Ministry of Health was implementing the early stages of its pandemic response and had set up a national coordination centre, chief advisor of population health, Dr Greg Simmons said.

Various government agencies including border agencies were communicating over the issue and pilots and customs officers were on the look out for sick travellers, he told Radio New Zealand.

The Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade has issued a travel notice for people returning from Mexico, California and Texas. Anyone developing flu-like symptoms was advised to seek medical attention immediately.

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