A 30-year-old New Zealand woman was reported to be critically ill with swine flu on Friday as the health ministry officially accepted that the disease had spread so widely that it could not contain it.
The patient was the first New Zealander to be put into intensive care with the illness. She was admitted Thursday evening to Wellington Hospital, and officials said she was morbidly obese and had a history of respiratory problems.
The ministry said that New Zealand had 216 confirmed cases of influenza H1N1, up 63 cases overnight, and 158 of them were current. Most people recovered from the infection without need for hospitalization or medical care, officials said.
They said they were moving from a policy of trying to contain the disease to managing it, reflecting the increased spread of the virus rather than a change in severity, especially in three main cities, Wellington, Christchurch and Auckland.
Victims were being encouraged to look after themselves at home. The anti-viral medication Tamiflu, which was previously given to all patients, would now only be dispensed to the seriously ill.
"The shift in New Zealand's response is in keeping with the World Health Organization's assessment that the overall severity of the disease is moderate but spreading globally," a ministry statement said.