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Pregnant teachers voice concerns about swine -

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Pregnant teachers voice concerns about swine flu

Di Bain reported this story on Tuesday, July 28, 2009 12:26:00

PETER CAVE: Health authorities are bracing for a surge in the number of swine flu victims as tens
of thousands of children in New South Wales go back to school today.

The school term has already started in most other states but infectious diseases experts say the
number of people who might have the virus is no longer being counting and the figures available is
just the tip of the iceberg.

It's a scenario that has pregnant teachers in Sydney worried; they want the education department to
assess just how dangerous the school yard really is to ensure their unborn child isn't exposed to
danger.

Di Bain reports.

DI BAIN: Over the past two weeks in New South Wales the number of teenagers presenting with swine
flu has dropped. Health authorities aren't sure why. Dr Paul Armstrong from New South Wales Health
says it could be because students have been on holidays and with the new term starting the
situation could change.

PAUL ARMSTRONG: This may mean that the swine flu epidemic has peaked and it's one the way down or
more likely it's because kids are away from school and away from those mixing patterns that we know
that occur at school and hence numbers are going down. So there's an expectation that those numbers
will increase once they go back to school.

DI BAIN: How prepared is the education system for this?

PAUL ARMSTRONG: Since the beginning of the human swine flu epidemic there's been a lot of
information that's been sent home to parents. We've worked very closely with the Department of
Education and the Independent Schools Association and the Catholic Schools Commission to make sure
that there's appropriate information going home to parents about their children.

DI BAIN: Students have already gone back to school in most other states. In Victoria, health
authorities say there's been no unusual spike in the numbers of swine flu cases from school
children.

However Raina MacIntyre, an infectious diseases specialist with the University of New South Wales,
says authorities are no longer keeping accurate figures on the number of swine flu cases.

RAINA MACINTYRE: As cases increase, and it's been the case already, the amount of testing has
dropped off. The figures are only a reflection of how hard we look for flu and how much we test.
So, you know, it's just a matter of interpreting the data correctly.

DI BAIN: She says the epidemic hasn't peaked yet and the new school term is likely to see a surge
in the number of cases in the coming weeks.

RAINA MACINTYRE: I don't think the epidemic has peaked yet. It will probably peak in, possibly
early or mid-August. So I think there will be more pressure to come and the opening of schools
won't help.

DI BAIN: This has teachers worried. The New South Wales Teachers Federation's Bob Lipscombe says
pregnant teachers aren't sure if it's safe to go to work.

BOB LIPSCOMBE: Well we've advise our members to speak to their doctors as a matter of urgency and
then the department is required, under occupational health and safety legislation, to carry out an
appropriate risk assessment and take the measures necessary to protect their health and safety in
the workplace. We would expect the Department of Education to honour its obligations to do that.

DI BAIN: Will the department conduct that risk assessment before they go back to school?

BOB LIPSCOMBE: It should be done as a matter of urgency, prior, hopefully prior to any exposure to
any risks from children who may be infected. But we'll be monitoring that closely over the next few
days to make sure that does happen.

DI BAIN: The Australian Medical Association says hospitals are gearing up for more work.

Dr Brian Morton says parents need to be vigilant and keep their children home if they're not
feeling well.

BRIAN MORTON: Once children are back at school it's very important that they use good cough
etiquette, use a tissue which they then discard or cough into their elbow.

DI BAIN: New South Wales is now leading the country with the number of swine flu deaths reaching
17.

PETER CAVE: Di Bain reporting.