The number of H1N1 flu cases in Australia has
doubled in the past day to 59. The federal government has warned that the H1N1
influenza A virus is spreading fast. Health experts say its rapid transmission
coincides with the southern hemisphere's traditional winter flu season.
The H1N1 flu has been confirmed in most Australian states and
territories. The epicenter of the outbreak is in Victoria, where a group of
children are among those being treated.Virus origin
Tests have yet to reveal if the infections in Australia have
been imported from other countries or whether the virus has started to spread
among those who have not traveled overseas.
In New South Wales, health
agencies have been criticized for not quarantining hundreds of passengers on
board a cruise ship where 14 people were diagnosed with the virus, commonly
known as swine flu.
Although some of those who disembarked the vessel in
Sydney had complained of being ill, they were allowed to travel home.
Three crew members on the Pacific Dawn
have shown flu-like
symptoms. Authorities have diverted the cruise liner, which left Sydney bound
for the Great Barrier Reef, to an island near the Queensland city of Cairns,
where the patients will be tested for flu.
The virus' spread in Australia
has come at the start of the southern hemisphere's annual flu season.
Country is preparing for flu season
Rawlinson from Sydney's Prince of Wales hospital says the country is preparing
for an onslaught.
"It is of concern because as we go into winter that is
when we see our peak of flu," Rawlinson said. "And I think that is why we are
all gearing up to deal with this problem and why public health authorities as
well as the laboratories as well as clinicians, emergency departments are all
putting in place practices that have been developed over other outbreaks such as
SARS and the H5 avian strain."
In an attempt to stop the virus
spreading to Tasmania, children who have recently traveled to Mexico, the United
States, Canada, Panama or Japan have been told to stay away from schools and
childcare centers for seven days. Those countries have seen the largest number
of cases.Health screening intensifies
Officials say they
will intensify health screening measures at airports and
Australia's federal health minister, Nicola Roxon, says the
number of confirmed swine flu cases will likely rise significantly in the coming
Worldwide cases of the virus have reached almost 13,000 Tuesday in
46 countries. Nearly 100 people have died, most of them in Mexico, where the
outbreak began last month.
Elsewhere in the Pacific, Singapore reported
its first case of H1N1, a woman who had just returned from a visit to the United