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Expert claims 20,000 could die from swine flu -

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Expert claims 20,000 could die from swine flu

Di Bain reported this story on Wednesday, July 15, 2009 12:18:00

PETER CAVE: Medical experts are estimating that up to 20,000 Australians could die from swine flu
this winter. Ten-thousand people already have the virus and the death toll has passed 20 as it
continues to rise.

Health authorities say that hospitals are already at capacity and they're concerned the system
won't be able to cope.

The concerns come as the company developing the swine flu vaccine begins selecting hundreds of
volunteers in Adelaide to undergo clinical trials next week.

Di Bain reports.

DI BAIN: Health authorities say the number of people with swine flu in Australia is much worse than
the 9,900 cases that have been confirmed by GPs. They say it's becoming the main flu this winter
but the difference is no one has immunity to it, so there's more chances people will develop
complications like pneumonia.

Forty-nine-year-old Jonathan Bass contracted swine flu on a flight from Sydney to Perth two weeks
ago. Within days he found himself in the emergency ward of Royal Perth Hospital fighting for his
life.

JONATHON BASS: I wasn't feeling that well and all of a sudden it just hit without really any
warning on Wednesday morning I just couldn't move. I was so sick and crook, I just had totally no
energy, and couldn't get up anywhere so they called the ambulance and took me off to hospital.

And then when it got to Thursday night I was quite worried about the way I was feeling because I
was having real problems breathing, and they were quite concerned.

DI BAIN: Did you think you were going to die?

JONATHON BASS: I thought I was very close.

DI BAIN: So they put you on Tamiflu and that started working fairly quickly?

JONATHON BASS: Well once they found out it was swine flu, and they treated me for the swine flu and
I had pneumonia too, so once they started treating that I did start to get, start feeling a bit
better, but it did take still a little while before I started being able to breathe properly and
you know, get on top of it.

DI BAIN: Mr Bass is a unique case for doctors because eh has no underlying medical problems.
Infectious diseases expert Professor Raina MacIntyre is part of the influenza advisory group to
Australia's chief medical officer.

She says August will be the worst month for swine flu with thousands of deaths.

RAINA MACINTYRE: If you look at deaths that are directly related to influenza and also to
pneumonia, which is the most common complication of influenza, we could be looking at anything in
the ball park of 10,000 deaths, 10,000 to 20,000 deaths.

DI BAIN: Currently there are 123 people with swine flu in hospital; the majority of those are in
Victoria. Professor MacIntyre says hospitals across the country are under intense pressure.

RAINA MACINTYRE: It means there will be significant bed block, you know, emergency departments will
be full, intensive care beds and other high dependency beds will be full, and there'll be longer
waiting times, longer length of stay of patients, and difficulty moving patients through the system
and making room for the new patients that need admission.

DI BAIN: Pharmaceutical company CSL has made a vaccine for swine flu and will test it out on 240
healthy adults in Adelaide next week. Providing all goes well the vaccine will be rolled out across
Australia in October.

That's two months after the UK, where the British Ministry of Health says it will start handing out
swine flu vaccines next month. CSL's Dr Rachel David denies Australia is lagging behind in the
distribution of vaccines.

RACHEL DAVID: They have their own providers, they're, in terms of the flu vaccine manufacturers,
most of them are located in the US and Europe. We, CSL provides Australia because we are the only
manufacturer in the Southern Hemisphere that has a facility.

DI BAIN: The Australian Medical Association says it would be concerned if UK residents were able to
access the vaccine before critically ill patients in Australia. AMA president Andrew Pesce says a
system now needs to be established to distribute the vaccine.

ANDREW PESCE: I believe that there is a plan to do this; I think that it's unusual that we've got
an emerging virus in the middle of a flu season that we don't have a vaccine to, so it's going to
test out ability to roll that out. I think it will be fine, but we'll have to wait and see.

PETER CAVE: Dr Andrew Pesce from the AMA, ending that report from Di Bain.