More swine flu expected


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21-05-2009 12:13 PM


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Radio National


21-05-2009 12:13 PM



21-05-2009 01:18 PM

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2009-05-21 12:13:35

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CAVE, Peter



ROXON, Nicola, MP


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More swine flu expected -

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PETER CAVE: In the month since swine flu emerged in Mexico, health officials have warned that it
will inevitably come to Australia. Now that six cases have been confirmed here, the question is: is
it here to stay?

Five cases have been confirmed in Victoria and New South Wales in the last 24 hours, leading to the
shut-down of an entire primary school in Victoria. The latest case was confirmed just this morning.

Simon Lauder reports.

SIMON LAUDER: Last week a family from Melbourne's inner north was enjoying a holiday in the United
States. They returned with an unwanted souvenir.

Three brothers aged 9, 10 and 12 have tested positive to swine flu and their experience over the
next two or three weeks will be a long way from Disneyland. Their mother spoke to ABC radio using
only her first name, Stephanie.

STEPHANIE: No, we're not allowed to leave the house at all. You know we can't even go out to get
milk or anything. So we're reliant on friends and family to do food drops if we need them, or
otherwise the Health department has said that they will help us with deliveries of anything we

SIMON LAUDER: The older brother goes to a high school in Melbourne's inner north but health
officials say he wasn't there long enough to infect others. Fifty-one children from grades three
and five at Clifton Hill Primary School have been told to stay home for the next six days and the
school is providing antiviral drugs. Last night the Department of Human Services decided to close
the school for the rest of the week.

The Principal of Clifton Hill Primary, Geoff Warren:

GEOFF WARREN: The emergency management group yesterday gave us some advice on cleaning of the
classrooms, some additional cleaning of the classrooms and that's being followed through today and
tomorrow. Certainly the classrooms where those children have been present have been given
additional cleaning under the direction of the Health department.

SIMON LAUDER: The first Australian case of swine flu was confirmed earlier this month in
Queensland. That woman has made a complete recovery. But in the last 24 hours the chances of
Australia staying swine flu-free have taken a beating.

This morning the Victorian Health Minister Daniel Andrews confirmed another case of swine flu in

DANIEL ANDREWS: A tourist from Mexico, a 51-year-old woman from Mexico who arrived in Melbourne on
the 17th of May and fell ill on the 19th and was then tested and confirmed last evening; her and
her two immediate contacts have been isolated. They've been provided with antivirals and are
getting the care that they need. This case is in no way linked to the three school-aged children.

SIMON LAUDER: There's also swine flu in New South Wales. The Health department revealed yesterday
that a woman who arrived back in Sydney from the United States last week had contracted the H1N1
virus. The woman's young child is also being tested for the illness.

Thermal scanners have been deployed at international airports since last month, detecting arrivals
who have high temperatures. The Federal Health Minister Nicola Roxon says there's no evidence that
system has failed.

NICOLA ROXON: As we know with this type of flu and any type of flu there is an incubation period
and we won't always be able to detect people who aren't showing any symptoms.

SIMON LAUDER: The nationwide strategy at the moment is still focused on delay - stopping the swine
flu getting into the general community for as long as possible. The next phase would be

MIKE RICHARDS: We are effectively trying to contain as of this time.

SIMON LAUDER: Professor Mike Richards is the director of the Victorian Infectious Diseases Service
at the Royal Melbourne Hospital.

MIKE RICHARDS: Once there was large numbers of people with swine flu overseas it has been
inevitable that it will come to Australia.

SIMON LAUDER: And with five new cases confirmed in the last day, is it legitimate to now ask if
swine flu is in Australia to stay?

MIKE RICHARDS: We haven't got that sort of, the last step along that, that we're having local
transmission. I don't know of any local transmission of infection. But I think if it hasn't
happened yet it's very likely to happen at some stage in the near future.

SIMON LAUDER: And why do you say that?

MIKE RICHARDS: Well the way the world is, people travel. There are now I think
10-and-a-half-thousand documented cases of swine flu overseas. People are moving around the world.
Someone's going to come back from overseas pretty soon and they're going to make contact with other
people. And we know the virus is contagious. It's a new virus. That's the nature of pandemic flu.
And so there will be some local spread.

And whilst it's unrealistic to stop it, our strategy is really to slow the spread of the virus to
minimise the spread of the virus so that if it happens slowly and gradually we can be, we can deal
with it as it happens and move on towards getting a swine flu vaccine.

SIMON LAUDER: By rearing its head in Australia the swine flu has once again shown off perhaps its
most fearsome trait - unpredictability. The other worrying factor is the lack of immunity people
have to the swine flu.

But so far it hasn't proved to be much more deadly than regular flu and health experts advise the
best way to prevent it is basic hygiene.

PETER CAVE: Simon Lauder reporting.