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'Unstoppable' swine flu puts young and fit in -

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'Unstoppable' swine flu puts young and fit in hospital

Simon Lauder reported this story on Tuesday, July 14, 2009 12:22:00

PETER CAVE: The World Health Organization says that swine flu is proving unstoppable and when it's
ready, a vaccine should be distributed in every country.

But that is still months away and the virus is having a significant impact in Australia.

More than 20 Australians have died and several otherwise fit and healthy people have now been
struck down.

Simon Lauder reports.

SIMON LAUDER: So far swine flu has killed about 500 people worldwide and infected about a million.
The director of vaccine research with the World Health Organization, Marie-Paule Kieny.

MARIE-PAULE KIENY: The H1N1 epidemic, pandemic as it is now, is unstoppable and therefore that all
countries will need to have access to vaccine.

SIMON LAUDER: Drug companies are racing to produce that vaccine, but Marie-Paule Kieny says yields
have been poor. That means not as many doses will be available as had been hoped.

MARIE-PAULE KIENY: First health care workers should be immunised in all countries in order to
maintain functional health system as the pandemic evolves.

SIMON LAUDER: The vast majority of swine flu cases are mild, but so many people have it now that
several extreme cases have emerged in Australia. In New South Wales six young people with the
illness are on cardiac bypass machines.

Associate Professor Lou Irving from Royal Melbourne Hospital is also a director of the Influenza
Specialist Group.

LOU IRVING: Because we know that more people are at risk because very few of us have any immunity
against this new virus, we know that there will be many more people developing flu and therefore
there is more of a chance that there will be more severe disease, even if it is still a relatively
uncommon occurrence.

SIMON LAUDER: So we can expect to see more fit young people with swine flu and in hospital?

LOU IRVING: I think that is true.

SIMON LAUDER: About 1,000 Australians have been hospitalised with swine flu.

Australia's chief medical officer, Jim Bishop, says that includes about 100 who are still there.

JIM BISHOP: We are seeing that the majority of flu cases around the country, around 70 per cent of
flu is swine flu on a national basis and what we would expect to see in some jurisdictions such as
Victoria, it is higher than that. In some jurisdictions such as New South Wales, it is a little bit
lower than that and I think that we are seeing a build-up. We expect that this thing will peak in
August and then we will see, hopefully, a tailing off.

The experience in the United States however is that this disease can run on through Summer but at a
much lower rate so we are expecting more flu through August and then a tailing off.

SIMON LAUDER: So there's not expected to be any relief from swine flu until the seasons change.

The chief health officer in New South Wales Dr Kerry Chant says some hospitals are already
rearranging their schedules to accommodate swine flu patients.

KERRY CHANT: One of the ways in which we can get some additional space in our intensive care unit
quite quickly is to just defer for a very short period some very complex surgery which is of an
elective nature, not emergency, and that type of elective complex surgery can be deferred for a
week or so and then that gives us time for the ICU to just meet a temporary increase in surge.

SIMON LAUDER: Health authorities are no longer testing everyone who has flu symptoms, so the extent
of the disease isn't really known.

The Tasmanian Health Department has recruited nine GP clinics across the state to help find out how
far the virus has spread. The acting director of public health Dr Chrissie Pickin.

CHRISSIE PICKIN: We asked them actually to swab everybody with respiratory symptoms on a particular
day in the week so that we can actually see what proportion of these are flu and what proportion of
the flu cases that we are seeing are actually H1N1.

SIMON LAUDER: The swine flu vaccine may not be ready until the end of September. Professor Lou
Irving says until then the focus should still be on slowing down the spread of the disease.

LOU IRVING: We need to keep our fingers crossed for the production of the vaccine which is
currently undergoing clinical trials and we need to hold the line about individual personal

PETER CAVE: Professor Lou Irving from the Influenza Specialist Group, speaking there to Simon