Delamere on Hong Kong 'Flu Virus

  • John Delamare
Associate Minister of Health

Associate Health Minister, Hon Tuariki Delamere, said today New Zealand medical authorities are working closely with their Australian counterparts to monitor developments in the new influenza virus recently detected in four people in Hong Kong.

The virus is of the influenza type A, named H5N1, and is usually found only in poultry. Two of the four people infected with the virus have since died, one a three year old boy and the other a 54 year old man.

A two year old boy was infected last month but has since recovered and the latest case is a 13 year old girl who has been hospitalised, but is now recovering. An epidemic of the H5N1 strain killed several thousand chickens in Hong Kong earlier this year.

Mr Delamere said the current understanding is that the virus can only be transmitted from birds to people and there is no evidence yet of transmission of the virus between humans.

He said a committee is being formed by the Communicable Diseases Network of Australia and New Zealand to plan future responses to any major 'flu outbreaks and the Ministry of Health is receiving regular updates from the World Health Organisation and the American Centres for Disease Control.

Medical Officers of Health are being advised that people travelling to Hong Kong and other south east Asian countries should seek medical advice if 'flu-like symptoms appear.

Travellers who feel they are in at-risk groups for influenza should consider immunisation depending on the season and their destinations. Normal hygiene should also be observed, including covering the mouth and nose when coughing or sneezing, and washing hands before preparing food or eating.