Australia Reports Sharp Rise in Swine Flu Cases

by VR Sreeraman on  June 2, 2009 at 4:19 PM Tropical Disease News
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Australia's swine flu tally soared again to nearly 500 confirmed cases, just a day after a sudden spike made it the Asia-Pacific region's worst affected country.
 Australia Reports Sharp Rise in Swine Flu Cases
Australia Reports Sharp Rise in Swine Flu Cases

Victoria health minister Daniel Andrews said 89 new cases had been identified in the state overnight, taking its total to 395. The national count now stands at 496, the fourth largest worldwide.

Australia had only one case of swine flu just a fortnight ago but the numbers have grown exponentially since the controversial move to let infected passengers leave a luxury cruise-liner last week.

On Tuesday, Carnival Australia warned that another of its vessels had been turned away from the French Pacific territory of New Caledonia because of possible flu cases among its passengers.

"We reported that some people on board had flu-like symptoms," Carnival Australia spokesman Anthony Fisk said.

"We anchored and they asked us not to disembark any passengers."

Samples from four or five of some 2,000 "Dawn Princess" passengers will be tested for swine flu before the vessel returns to Sydney on Friday.

Australia this week overtook Japan as the region's swine flu hotspot, lagging only the United States, Mexico and Canada in terms of the number of cases.

With the country heading into the southern hemisphere winter, Queensland health minister Paul Lucas warned deaths from the virus were unavoidable.

"Inevitably, you expect to see deaths in Australia from swine flu," Lucas told the state parliament, pointing out that flu killed 1,000 to 3,000 people each year.

Lucas added it was impossible to stop the virus spreading. "What we are doing is slowing it and seeking to contain it," he said.

In Victoria, which accounts for 80 percent of Australia's cases, authorities said most sufferers were aged five to 18. Fourteen schools have been closed in the state capital, Melbourne.

Acting chief health officer Rosemary Lester said the rapid spread of the virus was because there was no immunity among the population to the flu strain.

"This means that we expect a higher proportion of the population to be affected but it does not mean the virus is necessarily more severe," she said.

Officials also warned fans travelling to Tuesday's State of Origin rugby league match in Melbourne to take precautions such as washing their hands and covering their mouths when coughing.

"The advice is very clear. There are simple, sensible things people should do, take precautions, when they're going travelling in Victoria," said New South Wales health minister John Della Bosca.

Health officials have said they will consider cancelling mass-attendance events such as sports tournaments if they decide to raise the emergency level for the outbreak from the "contain" phase to "sustain."

Source: AFP

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