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Australia Trials Swine Flu Vaccine As World Toll Leaps

by VR Sreeraman on July 22, 2009 at 11:42 AM
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 Australia Trials Swine Flu Vaccine As World Toll Leaps

Australia on Wednesday began human trials for a swine flu vaccine as concerns grew over the disease after the global death toll leapt suddenly past 700.

Some 240 adults and 400 children are involved in the trial at Royal Adelaide Hospital, with the government hoping to start mass immunisations within months.

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"As soon as I have confirmation that the vaccine is safe and effective, I will ensure it can be rolled out to the community," Health Minister Nicola Roxon said.

Australia has pre-ordered 21 million shots of vaccine from CSL Biotherapies after being badly hit by A(H1N1) with more than 14,000 cases and 38 deaths linked to the disease -- the worst figures in the Asia-Pacific region.
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Scientists fear swine flu, which has so far been reasonably mild, will mutate to a more deadly form in a reprise of the Spanish and Asian influenza pandemics of 1918 and 1958.

CSL spokeswoman Rachel David said many people had volunteered for the swine flu vaccine trial because they wanted to avoid catching the disease.

"We're talking about kids aged between six months and nine years and it involves two injections and two blood tests, so four needles to monitor the results," she told public broadcaster ABC.

"I think that is a big commitment for families, but in spite of that we've had a number of people come forward because they're interested in not getting the flu."

Australia is witnessing daily deaths linked to swine flu, with a 59-year-old woman with other health problems becoming the latest fatality late on Tuesday. Some 231 people are in hospital nationwide including 96 in intensive care.

On Tuesday, a 19-year-old Aboriginal woman with swine flu lost her unborn child, prompting warnings for expectant mothers to avoid mass gatherings and protect themselves with flu shots.

The woman, who remains in serious condition in hospital, comes from Palm Island in Australia's northeast, where doctors fear some 10 percent of the 3,500 population may have been infected, according to The Australian.

The newspaper also said the mother-of-two Alma Palmer had been sent home from hospital with paracetamol, a day before collapsing and being airlifted to the mainland.

"I am angry with the hospital," her grandfather Roderick Geesu was quoted as saying. "She went to the hospital and instead of giving her a thorough check-up they gave her a packet of Panadol (paracetamol)."

Hospitals have complained they are under growing pressure with a Sydney intensive care specialist saying they were "tearing their hair out" to find enough staff to cope with the sudden influx of patients.

A union in Queensland state has also warned up to 20 percent of nurses could be put on sick leave with swine flu during the ongoing southern hemisphere winter, double the normal figure.

The World Health Organization on Tuesday said the global death toll had shot up from 439 to more than 700, a leap of some 40 percent.

Source: AFP
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