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Page last updated at 11:28 GMT, Tuesday, 28 April 2009 12:28 UK

NZ reports first swine flu cases

Tony Ryall, Minister of Health, speaks to the media during a press conference at the Ministry of Health on April 28, 2009
Tony Ryall said at least three cases in New Zealand had been confirmed

New Zealand has confirmed the first cases of swine flu in the country - also thought to be the first in the Asia-Pacific region.

Health Minister Tony Ryall told reporters that at least three students who had recently returned from Mexico had tested positive for the disease.

Other nations in the region are testing travellers to check for symptoms.

In Australia, 19 people are being tested for the virus and several hundred others are being sought.

China is on full alert, as several children have fallen ill with symptoms resembling those of swine flu.

In South Korea, a woman who recently returned from Mexico is undergoing clinical tests.

China and Thailand are among the countries reported to have banned imports of meat products from some parts of the United States and Mexico as they attempt to protect themselves, although experts say there is no evidence to link exposure to pork with infection.

More than 150 people are already thought to have died from the disease in Mexico, and cases have also been confirmed in the US, Canada and Europe.

The World Health Organization has warned that swine flu has "pandemic" potential, but it has yet to reach this stage.

School infection

"Unfortunately tonight we can confirm New Zealanders have tested positive to swine flu," Health Minister Tony Ryall told reporters.

A thermal camera monitors the body temperature of passengers arriving from overseas at Incheon International Airport in Incheon, west of Seoul, South Korea, 26 April 2009
Asian countries have stepped up checks at airports

The 11 people concerned - 10 students and one teacher - are from an Auckland secondary school, and had come down with flu-like symptoms after returning from a three-week visit to Mexico.

Mr Ryall said a World Health Organization laboratory in Australia had tested three samples from the 11 people and confirmed they had the H1N1 swine flu strain. The other eight samples were also assumed to be positive.

New Zealand is also monitoring a further 43 people for possible signs of swine flu.

Hong Kong, Australia, Japan, New Zealand, Taiwan, South Korea and Singapore have all advised against non-essential travel to Mexico.

Stock markets around the region have fallen due to investor fears that an outbreak could derail economic recovery.


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