So far Australia clear of swine flu

According to Queensland's Chief Health Officer, although more cases of suspected swine flu have been reported in the Queensland, to date the state and the nation remain free of the disease.

Dr. Jeannette Young says all four potential cases, one at the Gold Coast and three in Brisbane, were cleared by tests, while another 12 cases across the state from Cairns to the Gold Coast, including two at Brisbane Airport, were still waiting for test results.

Queensland Premier Anna Bligh has advised people to have flu injections, after authorities recorded 37 potential swine flu cases - eight people who arrived in Brisbane from Auckland on Saturday, travelling on the same flight from Los Angeles as three New Zealand children with swine flu, are yet to be contacted.

The Premier says the Australian Quarantine and Inspection Service are being assisted with checking people arriving on international flights - in March alone 314,694 international passengers passed through Brisbane Airport - of 5 who were screened at the airport, 2 had flu-like symptoms, were tested, given Tamiflu and sent home.

Testing involves a nose and throat swab which is sent away to Queensland Health's laboratory in Brisbane and to the World Health Organisation collaborating laboratory in Victoria.

The symptoms of swine flu are similar to those of seasonal influenza, including fever, cough, sore throat, body aches, headache, chills and fatigue.

Swine flu is contagious and is currently thought to be spreading from human to human in the same way seasonal influenza and other common respiratory infections spread, but how easily this is happening remains unclear.

Dr. Young says anyone who has been to Mexico, the USA or Canada recently and became ill within seven days of leaving should consult their GP or a hospital emergency department, particularly if they have any flu-like symptoms.

Health authorities say it is not expected that the Australian seasonal influenza vaccine will provide protection against this new strain of influenza virus but current information suggests that the antiviral drugs (Tamiflu and Relenza) are effective against these swine influenza viruses. These drugs are readily available through pharmacists and can be prescribed by GPs.

Deputy Premier and Health Minister Paul Lucas will today inspect laboratory facilities in Brisbane that are part of the national testing system for swine flu.

Queensland infectious disease expert Professor John McBride says there is no need for panic over the swine flu outbreak.

Professor McBride, from James Cook University in the state's north, says swine flu is not a death sentence and the strain found in countries other than Mexico is milder than the original strain.

Professor McBride says the only deaths have occurred in Mexico, but it appears that the variety which has spread to other countries in the world so far is causing a much milder disease.

Professor McBride says simple hygiene measures such as hand washing, is the best way to avoid catching the virus and at this stage there is no general recommendation about wearing masks and certainly no need to panic.

Queensland Primary Industries Minister Tim Mulherin says there is no danger from eating pork as people cannot catch swine flu from eating pork and there is no need to ban pork imports from the United States.

The Australian Health Protection Committee (AHPC) which includes the Commonwealth Department of Health and Ageing Chief Health Officer and other chief health officers from around the country, is also monitoring unfolding events as well as reviewing and adjusting our public health response.


The opinions expressed here are the views of the writer and do not necessarily reflect the views and opinions of News Medical.
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