[03 March/The Country]

Two overseas workers in the fruit picking community have been hospitalised in Hawke’s Bay due to H1N1 influenza outbreak. A Hawke’s Bay DHB spokeswoman said there were 71 cases of people showing symptoms of the flu. Richard Bubby, Managing Director of Thornhill Horticultural Contracting confirmed that 31 workers had been off work with influenza-like symptoms last week. The sick workers were all from the Pacific Islands and in New Zealand on the Recognised Seasonal Employer Scheme which allows both horticulture and viticulture employers to hire staff from overseas if there is a shortage in New Zealand workers. The health board is monitoring the situation including working out whether the flu was caught in New Zealand or brought over from another country as well as whether it is purely affecting the fruit picking community or other parts of the region. The pickers had been picking peaches and apples but there is no health risk posed to those who eat the fruit because all fruit is well washed before sale.