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ABC News Breakfast -

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JOE O'BRIEN: Returning now to the story on swine flu and the number of Australian cases has risen
to 51 and health authorities say the amount of infections is expected to increase.

VIRGINIA TRIOLI: Federal Health Minister, Nicola Roxon, joins us now from Canberra to talk about
the situation.

Minister, good morning and thank you for joining us.

NICOLA ROXON: That's a pleasure.

VIRGINIA TRIOLI: First of all, are the number of cases, as you understand it, is the figure still
at 51?

NICOLA ROXON: Actually the confirmed cases are at 50, but I do expect that there will be other
announcements by jurisdictions during the course of the day. I think now we're moving into this new
phase. Unfortunately, we can expect there to be a fair jump in the next couple of days because we
see these clusters of swine flu.

We know that we then test the contacts, try to make sure that we contain the disease within a
particular group of people when we've got some confirmed cases. But the patterns overseas do show
us that we're probably likely to have some significant increases in the next few days. Our
challenge is then to be able to hold that at a level and try to ensure that this doesn't get a
community-wide hold on all of the community. That's going to be a challenge for us, but that's the
aim and where we're putting our effort now.

VIRGINIA TRIOLI: What are you being told about the severity of this virus and the infections? We
have 50, almost 51 confirmed. We know it's infectious, but how bad is it when you get it?

NICOLA ROXON: It certainly is very infectious. It seems that most of the cases in Australia have
been very mild, or quite mild. I see that there are some reports in the media, from at least a
couple of people who've got confirmed cases, that it's a more severe type of flu, particularly with
respiratory consequences. And we know from overseas that the more severe edge of it is having quite
dramatic respiratory problems.

Obviously, as there's more cases in Australia, we're more likely to get a sense of the spectrum.
But to date, we certainly have had mostly mild cases and I think that the public should be
reassured that in most instances it will be comparable to other flus. We just need to be careful
that for some particularly vulnerable people it can actually be very severe and quite dangerous.

VIRGINIA TRIOLI: But unlike other countries, as Health Minister, you're suggesting that we
shouldn't be anticipating deaths in Australia from this flu, at least at the moment?

NICOLA ROXON: Well, I think it's really impossible to say. We've seen a fairly small number of
countries that have had deaths, but we are over 80 worldwide. And we know that there are some
particularly vulnerable groups: people who already have respiratory problems, pregnant women, and
we know this is a disease primarily of young people.

That's why the actions we've taken in relation to schools have been quite strong and why we're now
asking people who have travelled or been in contact with others who have swine flu to not be at
school for seven days, to try to reduce the likelihood of the disease being passed on before
anybody's showing any symptoms. And I'm very pleased that we continue to have good cooperation from
the public to do this when it does cause some inconvenience.

VIRGINIA TRIOLI: Minister Roxon, did New South Wales authorities act appropriately and correctly
when they allowed passengers from on board the Pacific Dawn to disperse? Was that the right thing
to do?

NICOLA ROXON: Well, I think this was a very difficult situation. I understand that there are some
questions being asked, and some level of frustration that perhaps people should have been held
while more tests were being done. We have to try to have a proportionate response and holding 2000
people, or trying to put them in some sort of other isolated circumstances, would have its own
difficulties.

And the advice that we have so far is for us not to restrict internal travel in any way. In fact,
our advice, and the international advice, is not to close borders or restrict travel. They don't
believe this disease can be prevented from passing through the community in that way.

So, we're trying to move our efforts to testing, making sure that when we have confirmed cases we
can act quickly to deal with the contacts, to isolate people who have confirmed cases and try to
reduce the number of people who get swine flu and, of course, have an impact on the severity of it
by using antivirals early in the process.

So, I think that authorities are making decisions in difficult circumstances and trying to balance
the inconvenience to the public that might be regarded as disproportionate to what so far has been
a mild disease, with the need for us to try to isolate cases and make sure that there isn't any
unnecessary spread. And that is a difficult balance. In every instance it won't be perfect.

But I'm very confident that the states and territories have been doing a very good job; they've
been working closely with us. We're trying to ensure that there is a nationally consistent
approach, so if people are moving onwards that are known cases we ensure that the jurisdiction
they're moving to has all those details and is able to confine them. That's the sort of area where
we need to be putting more effort and as there's more cases that will obviously be a growing
logistical challenge.

VIRGINIA TRIOLI: And, Minister, just finally, how far along are we now in developing a vaccine?

NICOLA ROXON: Well, as I understand it there are now researchers and scientists around the world
who are very close to be able to producing the first test run. So, we need to be able to produce
the vaccine, they then need to be able to test its effectiveness. My latest advice is we are still
several months from having a vaccine, but we're certainly - our researchers are moving into the
next phase.

I've seen CSL in the media saying that they would be able to start their production next week of
their test vaccines. But it is a complicated process and it still would be several months down the
track. It's why every week that we can delay this disease spreading more widely in the community is
buying us more time, when we'll have this disease but a vaccine also to treat it.

VIRGINIA TRIOLI: Nicola Roxon, thank you for joining us today.

NICOLA ROXON: It's a pleasure.