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Wednesday, 17 October 1956

Dr DONALD CAMERON (OXLEY, QUEENSLAND) - I know that there have been outbreaks of infectious hepatitis, not only at Wollongong but also at several other places, during recent years, and that they have assumed fairly large proportions. These outbreaks have not been confined to Australia. They have occurred in other parts of the world, and in some cases have been attended by quite a high rate of mortality. I have no accurate figures in this connexion, but I am fairly certain that in Australia the mortality rate has been much lower than the 20 per cent, mentioned by the honorable member. Quite a deal of work has been done on this disease in Australia, but as yet no vaccine has been produced to combat it. One of the great difficulties is that it has not been possible so far to produce a culture medium in which the virus can be grown in order to make the vaccine. It is also true that there is no drug of known potency against this disease. However, work done in the United States of America recently makes it appear that a suitable medium may shortly be available, if it is not already being produced. The director of the Commonwealth Serum Laboratories will shortly visit the United States to investigate this question among other things. Work on infectious hepatitis has been done in Australia at the Walter and Eliza Hall Institute of Research. As the honorable member knows, the director of that institute is one of the leading virologists in the world. Of course, it should not be thought that all the research into suchdiseases is done in laboratories. A great deal of information about them is obtained from clinical experience, quite a lot of which, unfortunately, has been gained in Australia in recent years. The results of that experience have been made available to the medical profession. So 1 think it is true to say that Australia is as far ahead as is any other country in meeting the menace of infectious hepatitis.

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