The number of doctor consultations for influenza-like illnesses appears to have decreased slightly but it is too soon to determine whether this is the start of an ongoing fall in swine flu cases, the Ministry of Health says.
Health Minister Tony Ryall said it was common for flu numbers to rise and fall over several months and this pandemic might follow a similar pattern.
The next few weeks will be critical in better understanding the future path of the pandemic, he said.
"We are seeing different pictures of swine flu activity across different regions," Mr Ryall said.
"For instance, the numbers of confirmed H1N1 hospitalisations in Lakes, MidCentral, Nelson Marlborough, Otago, South Canterbury, Southland, Tairawhiti, Taranaki, Wairarapa, West Coast, and Whanganui DHBs are still low but it may be the virus has not reached its peak in these regions."
As of midday today, 52 people were in hospital with swine flu, including 20 in intensive care.
There were a total of 2872 confirmed cases of the flu, up from 2855 yesterday.
The actual number of people who had contracted the illness would be significantly higher, as only a small proportion of people with symptoms were being tested, the ministry said.
The number of deaths in New Zealand from swine flu has remained steady at 14.
Meanwhile, early responses to a Ministry of Education "snapshot" survey of all schools last Friday showed that in general schools were reporting usual levels of absence for this time of year, while only a minority of the schools reported either lower or higher levels.
Deputy director of public health Fran McGrath said this might be because people had been taking note of the message to stay home if they were sick, to help slow the spread of influenza.
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