Swine flu leaving with winter

With spring just days away, the number of swine flu cases is on the way down, health officials say.

"DHBs report there has been less gridlock in hospitals than expected, and we hear there are fewer absences from schools and work places," Health Ministry deputy director of public health Fran McGrath said.

"People have really taken heed of the tried and true hygiene messages - cover coughs and sneezes, wash your hands often and stay home if you are sick.

"These simple actions appear to have helped delay the spread of this virus and lessened the impact of this pandemic on our communities."

However, while the virus looked to be abating as the weather warmed up, Dr McGrath said it was unlikely to disappear completely.

She said the focus was now on being prepared for any increase in cases in the coming months, and ensuring health services could respond quickly if the virus became more widespread.

The latest ministry figures showed 16 people had died from swine flu in New Zealand while 10 people were in hospital with the virus, including six in intensive care.

In total, 3114 cases of swine flu have been confirmed, although the actual number of cases would be significantly higher as only a small proportion of people with symptoms were being tested, the ministry said.

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