Australia's swine flu alert level may be raised a notch

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As Australia's number of confirmed cases of influenza A H1N1 (swine flu) continues to soar - the toll is now 1,211 - there is now the very real possibility that the swine flu alert level will be raised a notch.

Of that total Victoria has now 1,011 confirmed cases and Federal Health Minister Nicola Roxon has revealed that chief health officers are meeting in Sydney on Wednesday in order to review the alert level and current quarantining procedures.

Despite this the Health Minister has said sports organisers should reconsider plans to cancel major sporting events and to base their decisions on current medical advice.

Ms Roxon says the best health advice says there is clearly no need to restrict domestic travel and this would not be an appropriate or proportionate response at present as people with the H1N1 virus in Australia have so far displayed only mild symptoms.

The World Health Organisation (WHO) in its latest update, #45, says as of the 8th of June, 73 countries have officially reported 25,288 cases of influenza A (H1N1) infection, including 139 deaths.

Australia remains 4th on the list of hardest hit countries - the U.S. is top with 13,217 cases including 27 deaths, Mexico has had 5,717 including 106 deaths and Canada has had 2,115 cases including 3 deaths.

The new flu virus, thought initially to be of swine origin, was first detected in Mexico and the United States in March and April and within a short space of time it was clear that the virus was spreading from person-to-person in much the same way that regular seasonal influenza viruses spread, through the coughs and sneezes of people who are sick with the virus.

By last week the outbreak in the United States had affected all 50 states but experts there believe overall that the influenza activity is on the wane but it remains uncertain however, just how serious or severe this new H1N1 virus will be in the upcoming influenza season in the autumn and winter in the U.S.

While most people who have become ill with swine flu have recovered without requiring medical treatment and have experienced typical flu symptoms, experts worldwide continue to closely monitor the situation in order to gather information about the new virus and its characteristics and how it might mutate so an adequate and appropriate response can be prepared.

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