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NZealand tracking passengers from Mexico flight

New Zealand health authorities were tracking down hundreds of plane passengers who travelled with a group of school students believed to have caught the potentially deadly swine flu.

Ten students from a high school who returned from Mexico on Saturday tested positive for influenza A and were likely to have the swine flu, Health Minister Tony Ryall announced Sunday.

The Auckland pupils were not seriously ill, Ryall said, and confirmation they had swine flu was expected within the week. One of their teachers had also been admitted to hospital with similar symptoms, officials said Monday.

Their Air New Zealand flight to Auckland from Los Angeles had 364 passengers in total and the rest of the passengers have been urged to contact health authorities.

"Now that we know that this is an influenza A virus, possibly the swine flu virus, our attention will definitely be turning to all the contact tracing," the clinical director of the Auckland Regional Public Health Service Julia Peters told Radio New Zealand.

Separately, a small number of students from another Auckland high school who had recently returned from Mexico were also showing flu-like symptoms, and that group has been quarantined.

Mexican authorities have so far reported 20 confirmed deaths from and have said another 61 suspect deaths are being investigated as the World Health Organisatioin warned of "pandemic potential".

Suspected cases of the new strain of flu have been reported from around the world, although two people admitted to a hospital in Australia tested negative for swine flu, officials there said Monday.

Prime Minister John Key said New Zealand was well prepared to deal with any new flu outbreak following a plan drawn up during the 2003 bird flu scare.

The country has about 1.4 million doses of Tamiflu anti-flu medication, he said.

Reports from Mexico have indicated Tamiflu is effective in treating the new flu, New Zealand health officials said.

"I think New Zealanders can be confident that the government has a plan, that plan was put in place quite a number of years ago when we were concerned about avian bird flu," Key told Television New Zealand.

Health Minister Ryall said confirmation the first set of pupils had swine flu was a priority for them and their families.

"As I've said, the advice we've received is it is probable these kids have swine flu and that's why we have taken the arrangements we have," Ryall said.

"The good news is the symptoms have not been serious, I've been advised that these kids are on the road to recovery."

Samples from the students have been sent to a WHO laboratory in Melbourne, Australia.

Hundreds of passengers arriving at Auckland airport from North America on Monday were issued with a questionnaire and a public health warning about swine flu.

Two people admitted to an Australian hospital with flu symptoms after returning from Mexico have tested negative for deadly swine flu, an official said Monday.

"We had two cases suspected of swine flu. Both were tested and both came back negative," a spokesman for Queensland state Premier Anna Bligh told AFP.

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Publication:AFP Asian Edition
Date:Apr 27, 2009
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