- Swine flu has helped bring forward Australia's winter
flu season by two or three months, with total influenza figures for May
hitting their highest levels for the month this decade.
- Australia's swine flu tally yesterday surged past 1200,
with Victoria alone contributing 137 new cases.
- The rush of new infections is expected to continue today
as laboratories return test results after the long weekend.
- But the growth in flu cases of all strains began as early
as May, statistics from the National Notifiable Disease Surveillance Scheme
- Some 833 people tested positive to influenza A or B viruses
last month -- the largest number for May since national reporting of the
disease began in 2001.
- The caseload was more than three times as big as in April
and reached levels not seen in the past seven years before the peak flu
months of July and August. A federal Health Department spokeswoman confirmed
yesterday the surveillance system was recording cases from the new H1N1
strain, which arrived in Australia on May 9, as well as existing flu viruses.
- Microbiologist John Mackenzie, a professorial fellow
at Curtin University, said the statistics reflected the start of a "very
abnormal" pattern of winter infection.
- "We're not really into the influenza season yet,
but we've got this new strain of H1N1, and there's not much else around,"
- "It's not surprising at present that this new one's
dominant. It's novel to us, so it's spreading very quickly."
- The surveillance scheme only counts laboratory-confirmed
diagnoses, with concern over swine flu likely to have boosted testing and
diagnosis rates on previous years.
- But Victoria's decision last Wednesday to shift away
from widespread laboratory testing for swine flu to doctors' diagnoses
of clinical symptoms could affect future national reporting.
- Victoria last night raised its swine flu tally to 1011,
up from 874 on Friday.
- But the "new" infections are comparatively
old, arising from tests that were performed five or more days ago.
- They may be some of the last to be published in daily
updates, now that the state has abandoned efforts to contain the virus
and sought to limit damage to its tourism industry.
- But other states and territories, remain at the pandemic
alert phase of "contain" and have continued to report fresh cases.
- Queensland yesterday announced its swine flu infections
had risen to 53, after five more tests came back positive -- including
one from Queensland NRL player Ben Hannant, who played in the first State
of Origin series game in Melbourne. NSW's tally jumped by seven to 89,
Western Australia's increased by six to 20, and the ACT's by two to 10.
- The federal government has predicted that the rest of
the country will eventually join Victoria in scaling back its swine flu
response, as locally acquired cases multiply.
- The different quarantine and testing regimes across the
country are adding to the economic costs of the disease, which is yet to
claim a life in Australia.
- The commonwealth alone is believed to have committed
more in the last month to its swine flu response than it has to the rest
of its communicable diseases and immunisation programs for all of 2009-10.
- Its pledges so far on extra research, anti-virals and
vaccine orders to combat swine flu far exceed the $29 million it spent
this financial year on free vaccines for the usual seasonal flu, which
kills around 2700 Australians a year.
- H1N1 Flu Could Hit Half NZ Population
- ONE News/NZPA
- Health officials are warning that H1N1 flu could potentially
infect half of New Zealand's population if a pandemic takes hold.
- Young people seem to be most vulnerable, with the latest
alert involving a class at Gisborne Boys High School after a 13-year-old
just back from Australia was diagnosed with H1N1, or swine flu.
- Seventeen students, two teachers and a parent helper
have been tested and should get their results on Wednesday.
- The Ministry of Health says it's keeping a close eye
on Australia which now has over 1200 confirmed cases as the flu spreads
- Health authorities are not issuing a travel warning for
Australia yet but are urging visitors to take precautions.
- In other developments, a dozen New Zealand Qualifications
Authority (NZQA) staff have been quarantined after a colleague contracted
the H1N1 flu.
- The employee with the flu worked on level 13 of a central
Wellington office building, and was sent home on Friday.
- When the diagnosis was confirmed on Tuesday afternoon
NZQA quarantined a dozen people from level 13. Other tenants were warned
and the building landlords are expected to co-ordinate a response.
- The number of confirmed New Zealand cases of H1N1 flu
rose to 19 on Tuesday, with two new confirmed cases being reported by Wellington's
Regional Public Health overnight.
- While numbers of those infected are relatively small,
the flu strain is new and people have never been exposed to it, so it is
expected to spread quickly.
- In its present form, it is unlikely to result in a higher
death toll than seasonal flu.
- The number of probable cases was 11 on Tuesday, up from
10 on Monday, and there were 161 people in isolation or quarantine and
being treated with Tamiflu, up from 92 on Monday.
- There is no way of knowing with any certainty the exact
number of people who could be infected if a pandemic established in New
Zealand, director of public health Dr Mark Jacobs said.
- However, the more confirmed cases New Zealand has, the
higher the chance that more serious illness and deaths will occur, he said.
- While New Zealand appears to have succeeded in keeping
H1N1 flu at bay, Jacobs said, as time goes on the virus will become harder
and harder to manage.
- Employers should pay
- Meanwhile, the Engineering, Printing and Manufacturing
Union (EPMU) says employers should be prepared to take responsibility for
the costs of workplace exposure to H1N1 flu after a predicted increase
- EPMU national secretary Andrew Little says quarantine
comes with significant costs to workers and those costs should be met by
their employers if the exposure was work-related.
- "There can be a significant cost to a worker when
they are quarantined, ranging from loss of allowances to not being able
to work their second job and we believe that cost should be paid by the
employer if the quarantine is the result of workplace exposure," Little
- "We are currently following up on four cases in
which EPMU members have been quarantined following workplace exposure and
are not being properly compensated for the losses they are incurring as