Stranded swine flu cruise ship plays a waiting game

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According to the World Health Organisation's latest update, #40, on Influenza A H1N1 (swine flu), as of the 27th May, 48 countries have officially now reported 13,398 cases of the virus, including 95 deaths.

As health experts in Australia warn that more swine flu cases are inevitable Australia reportedly now has approaching 70 confirmed cases H1N1, including eight in Queensland.

The President of the Australian Medical Association Dr. Rosanna Capolingua says authorities are trying hard to contain the virus by testing for it and quarantining people, but the public can be expected to be anxious about H1N1 as it is spreading quickly, just like any other influenza virus.

There are now three confirmed cases of H1N1 in Canberra - earlier this week a 41-year-old Canberra man was confirmed to have the virus after returning from the United States and ACT Health Minister Katy Gallagher expects that number will rise substantially.

With more cases appearing on a daily basis the Pacific Dawn, which was due to sail to the Whitsundays, has been diverted towards Willis Island in far north Queensland when three crew members developed flu symptoms - two passengers are now also reportedly sick and are being tested for the virus.

Federal Health Minister Nicola Roxon has warned that as many as 2,000 other passengers and crew could have been exposed to the virus and the ship will be quarantined if necessary - reports from some passengers says cruise ship staff have not given enough details and they are not being kept informed.

Ms Roxon says she has been advised that those with symptoms are being isolated and health officials are advising on the best way to handle the other people on the ship.

Australian Medical Association of Queensland (AMAQ) spokesman Dr. Richard Kidd says more people are visiting GPs for tests and more are expected.

Health authorities in Tasmania are investigating three more cases of possible H1N1, including two cruise ship passengers, in addition to three reported yesterday, bringing the total number of people being tested in Tasmania to six - five were aboard the Pacific Dawn cruise ship.

A 37-year-old man from the south, and his two year old daughter are now in home isolation and test results for two women in the north-west and one woman in the north are expected later today.

The Pacific Dawn is at the centre of a H1N1 outbreak in Sydney with a 21-year-old man and 43-year-old woman testing positive for the virus, believed to have been picked while onboard the cruise ship - both are now in home quarantine and are taking anti-viral medication.

Ms Gallagher says health officials are trying to track down any people who have had contact with the infected Canberrans over the last few days but adds that to date all the cases seen have been mild.

Ms Gallagher says we are currently in the contained phase of the pandemic plan which is about trying to restrict the spread of the virus, but some experts believe it is highly likely the virus will become an epidemic.

The Federal Government has launched an ad campaign to advise people on what to do if they have symptoms - meanwhile the New South Wales Government says it is treating any cruise ships as if they are carrying the virus.


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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