Virus victim critical

One of Hawke's Bay Hospital's patients symptomatic of the H1N1 virus was last night fighting for her life and in a critical condition in the intensive care unit.

Profiled in yesterday's Hawke's Bay Today, the woman in her 50s remained sedated, ventilated and unconscious.

She is one of eight people to be confirmed or suspected to have H1N1, also known as swine flu, at Hawke's Bay Hospital since the end of February.

In the wake of an H1N1 influx, local medical officials are preparing for what has been called an "early" flu season in Hawke's Bay.

They are encouraging those who show symptoms of the virus to see their physician in an effort to stop a epidemic, similar to 2009.

Ministry of Health statistics show 2009's H1N1 epidemic infected 780,000 New Zealanders. Virologist Dr Lance Jennings said the anti-viral medicine sold under the name Tamiflu was the most effective way to combat H1N1.

He said Tamiflu is also the most widely stocked flu medicine in New Zealand and urged parents to immunise their children and elderly people to seek the jab.

H1N1 had been included in the vaccine since 2009 and in 2010 the Ministry of Health said the 2009 pandemic had the highest rate of infection in school-age children, with one in three affected.

The South Canterbury town of Geraldine has also experienced an outbreak of H1N1 similar to Hawke's Bay's.

Recently, North America has experienced a severe flu season, while

Queensland in Australia has also had double the cases of H1N1 patients this summer.

The Hawke's Bay District Health Board is battling the onset of the early flu season by starting its Come on the Bay Get Immunised campaign to help fight any potential epidemics.

What is H1N1?

H1N1 is the subtype of the influenza A virus and the most common cause of human influenza in 2009.

Symptoms of H1N1 include a fever, cough, sore throat, runny or stuffy nose, body aches, headache, chills, stomach upset and vomiting or diarrhoea.

The disease is most often contracted through tiny droplets of spittle emitted when people talked.

A protein called haemagglutin in the virus causes red blood cells to clump together and binds the virus to the infected cell.

Tamiflu is the best form of defence and if administered within 48 hours of showing symptoms the release of the virus from infected cells is in most cases stopped.

People who show symptoms are encouraged to see their GP.

- Sam Hurley of Hawke's Bay Today

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