Tuesday, 25 August 2009 9:18 AM

Swine Flu Deaths in Tahiti and New Caledonia

Tahiti and New Caledonia have had recent cases of deaths resulting from influenza A (H1N1) or Swine Flu, as it is more commonly known, prompting the French government to send medical and technical reinforcements.

According to the Tahitipresse, three persons have reportedly died in New Caledonia as a result of the swine flu and three in Tahiti.

The French Polynesia Health Ministry has announced Tahiti's first swine flu deaths-two women and a baby. It also announced there are an estimated 10,000 influenza A cases throughout French Polynesia, with 20 people hospitalized.

As a result, the French health, interior and overseas ministries announced in Paris on Friday that they were sending "medical and technical reinforcements" to New Caledonia and French Polynesia, according to the report.

However, a report by Radio New Zealand International states that the death toll on New Caledonia is at 5 in just over a week.

According to the report, the latest fatalities are a 30-year-old man and a 46-year-old woman who, according to authorities, had no known health issues before getting the flu.

The authorities say the flu outbreak, which may have peaked, has affected about 20,000 people.

According to Tahitipresse, Agence France-Presse (AFP) reported that a communiqué from the three French ministries stated that health professionals-doctors and nurses-are going to be sent 'within hours' as part of the health reserve, a body created in 2007 to provide means of rapid reinforcement during a health crisis.

"Such personnel will have respirators for artificial ventilation to cope with severe forms (of flu) requiring the use of resuscitation equipment. Some additional stocks of antiviral medicines for children will be sent to both territories, as requested by local health officials. Masks and antiviral treatments have already been sent 'since the beginning of the epidemic'," AFP reported.

French Polynesia's SAMU operation, a French emergency medical assistance organization, will be given an additional mobile first aid station, AFP said. And when a swine flu vaccine is available, the French government will provide free doses to local officials as part of "national solidarity". The vaccines are expected to be available in late September or early October.