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Week off for students at risk of swine flu -

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Week off for students at risk of swine flu

Reporter: Rachael Brown

PETER CAVE: Swine flu continues to spread in Australia, with Western Australia confirming its first
case.

Eighteen have now been confirmed around the country, with most in Victoria.

Schools have been preparing their defence, with their hothouse environment for germs leaving them
on the front line.

Students returning from overseas will be forced to take a week off to help buy time before the
expected availability of a vaccine in August.

Rachael Brown reports.

RACHAEL BROWN: In a bid to curb swine flu cases before a vaccine is developed, many states are
banning students from school for a week, if they're returning from Mexico, the US, Canada, Japan
and Panama.

Australia's chief medical officer, Professor Jim Bishop.

JIM BISHOP: If a child's come back from overseas, rather than have that child go to school, we
should ask that child to stay home until an incubation period is over.

And that way we'll avoid having to close schools if that child does, within a couple of days, get
flu-like illness.

RACHAEL BROWN: The ACT, New South Wales, Western Australia and South Australia announced the
measure over the weekend. And this morning Victoria, with the most cases, at 11, said it will be
following suit.

The Victorian Health Minister, Daniel Andrews.

DANIEL ANDREWS: There's been no delay; we have acted appropriately.

And in terms of this measure, which I think will affect a small but important number of students,
this is what the national health experts think we should do, and we are doing it.

RACHAEL BROWN: The news should please those Victorian parents angry at some schools' late damage
control.

One parent, who doesn't want to be named, says her daughter's school Thornbury High is an example
of the dangers of playing catch-up.

The school has closed its doors to most students this week, but only after a second case was
confirmed.

PARENT: I basically, sort of, more or less said to them that - look there's bound to be another
case, I don't know why youse aren't closing it down for.

They just, yeah. I'm really peeved on that one, they should've closed it down the first time it
happened.

RACHAEL BROWN: What was the school's response?

PARENT: They had no concerns that another outbreak will happen.

RACHAEL BROWN: Minister Andrews denies Victoria's response has been slow.

DANIEL ANDREWS: The experience in Victoria I think you'll find is informing the way other states
act.

RACHAEL BROWN: And the state's acting chief health officer, Dr Rosemary Lester, says one sick
student doesn't warrant their school's immediate closure.

ROSEMARY LESTER: We don't believe that for one case in a school as a base scenario that that
warrants closure. But as the Minister said, we will look at every case on a case-by-case basis.

RACHAEL BROWN: The virus struck a fifth school over the weekend, the Australian International
Academy, after an eight-year-old was diagnosed, despite having no recent travel history.

Raina MacIntyre, the Professor of Infectious Diseases Epidemiology at the University of NSW
explains schools are hot houses for germs

RAINA MACINTYRE: You get a congregation of lots of children together in closed spaces; it's also
known that children excrete the virus longer than adults, so they're more infectious in general.

RACHAEL BROWN: Most Australians who've contracted the virus are reporting only minor symptoms -
like this 20-year-old Brisbane student, who does not want to be named.

STUDENT: Um, I feel okay, a little bit congested still, but other than that I feel like I'm
definitely getting better.

RACHAEL BROWN: She arrived from New York on the Saturday morning, and authorities are trying to
contact 50 people on the same flight as her.

She says she and her two flatmates are all in quarantine in separate houses.

STUDENT: And I feel just really bad because all the housemates had to leave the house and all that
kind of thing. I just feel bad about that, but I guess that it's best to be safe, rather than
sorry.

RACHAEL BROWN: The National Influenza Specialist Group says on the whole, Australia is responding
to the outbreak well.

Its director, Dr Alan Hampson, says the country's fast treatment has mitigated symptoms.

ALAN HAMPSON: In most parts of the world that's happening. It didn't happen in Mexico; that
might've been the reason it was more severe in Mexico.

On the other hand, Mexico's a city that's at high altitude with a lot of pollution, a lot of
respiratory illness already, and that might've been a reason why it was so different.

RACHAEL BROWN: Dr Hampson says the virus is spreading in North America into a summer season, which
is unusual.

So he says there's the potential for more severe cases here in the southern hemisphere, which is
heading into its true flu season.

ALAN HAMPSON: There is that potential - we really can't be sure at the moment. What we will
anticipate, I think, is that because we have so little immunity of any in the population, we might
expect more of the virus.

So even if it's no more severe than normal, what we can expect is more cases, and therefore to
amplify the usual effect of influenza.

RACHAEL BROWN: There've now been more than 12,000 cases reported around the world.

PETER CAVE: That report from Rachael Brown in Melbourne.