Page last updated at 08:04 GMT, Wednesday, 1 April 2009 09:04 UK

Flu epidemic hits Pacific island


Medical officials from New Zealand are trying to get aid to the remote South Pacific islands of Tokelau, which have been hit by a flu epidemic.

The tiny archipelago, where one in 10 people are sick, is a 26-hour boat ride from its nearest neighbour, Samoa.

Most of the 150 people affected are children. Four have been hospitalised so far, according to media reports.

Public gatherings have been cancelled, schools closed, and sick people have been told to stay home.

Health officials from New Zealand and the World Health Organization are due to arrive with vaccines on Wednesday.

"This is an isolated population so there is not a high level of immunity," New Zealand's deputy director of public health, Fran Mcgrath, told the Australian Broadcasting Corporation.

Tokelau is made up of three coral atolls which have no airport, no roads and no capital city.

The territory is just 4.7 sq miles (12 sq km), lying halfway between Hawaii and New Zealand.

Officials say they will deliver about 1,400 flu vaccinations and obtain sample swabs to try to identify the strain of the influenza virus.

Wellington has governed Tokelau since 1926, and gives it substantial aid.

The people of Tokelau have rejected self-government in two referendums over the past three years.

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