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Victoria braces for outbreak, as scientists r -

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Reporter: Rachael Brown

PETER CAVE: A team of Melbourne scientists is using samples of swine flu to develop a vaccine. It's
growing the virus from samples taken from New Zealand students this week.

Meanwhile pharmacists around Victoria are reporting a huge demand for antiviral medications. One
says that wholesalers won't be able to cope if there is a local outbreak in the near future.

Rachael Brown reports.

RACHAEL BROWN: In case a local vaccine for swine flu needs to go into production, scientists at the
are injecting the virus into embryonated hens' eggs.

ANNE KELSO: And they can grow under those conditions really effectively and that ensures that the
virus is in a clean condition that's suitable for transfer into a manufacturing plant.

RACHAEL BROWN: The centre's director Anne Kelso says the US is leading the international race for a
vaccine and is a couple of months away, using viruses from Californian patients.

ANNE KELSO: They're also undertaking an additional step that's very important with a virus like
this or could potentially be important and that is to make sure that it has been changed somewhat
so that it's safer to use. There's always concern with a new virus like this exactly how dangerous
it is and so one wants to be able to use it safely in the manufacturing plant.

If that decision is made to go ahead with proper vaccine production on a scale that's suitable for
community use, then that will be the fastest it's ever been done for flu. It will absolutely be an
historical record.

RACHAEL BROWN: While Australia would benefit from any US vaccines, Professor Kelso says it's worth
local labs persisting with potential vaccines as a back-up. She says the chances of the virus
reaching Australia is high.

ANNE KELSO: It's very hard to say anything is inevitable. I just think that as each day goes by
it's more and more likely simply because the virus has now spread into quite a number of countries
around the world and we know how quickly anything spreads, whether it's a computer virus or a human
virus. We live in a very interconnected world and so it will be very difficult to keep this virus
out of the country.

RACHAEL BROWN: She says while the seasonal influenza vaccine that is available doesn't guard
against swine flu, it might result in less severe reactions.

Melbourne pharmacist Angelo Pricolo says the international outbreak has led to a rush on his flu
treatments.

ANGELO PRICOLO: What we've found in the last couple of days is that we've probably done half of
what we did all last season in the last two days and I'm sure that that's just because of the
heightened awareness of influenza in general.

RACHAEL BROWN: Rick Kent runs a pharmacy in Swan Hill. He's fielding up to 30 inquiries a day about
swine flu and quickly sold out of his antiviral medication. He says wholesalers don't have enough
stock to meet demand.

RICK KENT: All the pharmacies are now reordering two or three at a time or more. I suspect it's
going to take, you know, a week or more before good stocks become available in the wholesale
division before we can actually order and have good stocks here.

RACHAEL BROWN: So if there was an outbreak say in country Victoria it could be a bit of a problem?

RICK KENT: Yeah we don't have anything. You know, we've sold the three that we've got on the shelf
and can't get any more at the moment.

RACHAEL BROWN: Have you had many calls asking for...

RICK KENT: Information.

RACHAEL BROWN: The treatment or information?

RICK KENT: Yeah, lots of information, anecdotal evidence that people are worried about eating pork
which they don't need to be.

I talked to some people in that field, in immunology and virology and stuff like that and the
normal human flu is more dangerous than the swine flu.

RACHAEL BROWN: And your brother is a virologist I understand?

RICK KENT: Yeah. He gets advised of what's going on all the time and works at the Alfred Hospital
and at Melbourne University in the microbiology department.

RACHAEL BROWN: Has he said much to you about whether he agrees with claims that swine flu has been
somewhat overblown in media and medical circles?

RICK KENT: Yeah, he always does. He said to me, and this was only yesterday that all the deaths
that were reported in Mexico, you know there was 140 or something like that, that people had died,
he said you know, they don't think that that's correct and they doubt that whether it's anywhere
near that amount.

And he says things like if the same amount of people caught human flu as caught swine flu more
people would die from human flu than swine flu.

RACHAEL BROWN: Swan Hill pharmacist Rick Kent ending that report from Rachael Brown.