FW: Australia Downshifting on Swine Flu Fears

From: Andrew Johnson

Date: 2009-06-18 09:53:26

  —–Original Message—–From: Kathy Roberts [mailto:weerkhr@pacbell.net]Sent: 18 June 2009 06:03To: Undisclosed-Recipient:;Subject: Australia Downshifting on Swine Flu Fears www.news.com.au/pert…   Health authorities say swine flu usually a mild illness Article from: PerthNow Anthony Deceglie, health reporter June 17, 2009 03:30pm THE WA Health Department has downgraded its reponse to swine flu, on federal advice, recognising it is only a “mild illness” in most sufferers. The WA move on human swine influenza follows an announcement today by Federal Health Minister Nicola Roxon advising that Australia is to shift to a “protect” phase. Department acting chief health officer Andy Robertson said the new “protect” phase recognised that human swine influenza was not as severe as first thought. Under the new approach, anyone who comes into contact with confirmed cases will not routinely be placed in quarantine. Dr Robertson said the voluntary school exclusion policy no longer applied and, from tomorrow, children would not need to be kept home from school for seven days after visiting areas where swine flu was prevalent. However, children will be urged to stay home if they are unwell to protect their class mates from illness. The department will no longer routinely close schools if students are found to have swine flu. “We now need to turn our attention to those in the community who may be at risk of severe illness such as pregnant women and those with underlying medical conditions including respiratory disease, heart disease, diabetes, renal disease, morbid obesity and people with weakened immune systems,” Dr Robertson said. “We will continue to urge these people to seek medical attention if they develop flu-like symptoms. “Antiviral medication from the state and national stockpiles and testing for human swine influenza will be limited to people with moderate or severe illness or whose underlying conditions could make them vulnerable to the virus.” Dr Robertson said those with mild flu-like symptoms  did not need to go to a GP or hospital and would not need to be tested for human swine flu. “People with mild illness without any risk factors do not need to go and see a doctor, they can stay at home and rest until they are well,” he said. “Most people will recover by themselves within a few days.” Dr Robertson said he welcomed the new national phase as a reasonable and balanced response to the risk that the virus posed to the community. Flu not as bad as expected Though not as bad as feared but it still has the potential to kill thousands of Australians, experts have warned. The influenza A(H1N1) virus has spread within six weeks from 10 countries to 74, and Australia now ranks among the top five in terms of cases and rate of infection. But despite the now global reach and rapid spread of the virus, ACT-based Dr Sanjaya Senanayake says it had – surprising to some – failed to match fears of its potential deadliness. Swine flu’s case-to-fatality rate globally has been less than one per cent, and this compared to the 61 per cent of people who caught and then died from bird flu A(H5N1). “The virus, despite being both novel and infectious does not seem particularly lethal,” says Dr Senanayake, an infectious diseases physician at Canberra Hospital. “This last fact has probably surprised many. “Before this outbreak, many experts would have assumed that an influenza virus that crosses the species barrier and is capable of sustained human to human transmission would undoubtedly be highly lethal.” Dr Senanayake says that despite the mild effects of the virus it could still claim scores of lives amongst those vulnerable to the seasonal flu – generally those with underlying chronic illness. On a conservative estimate, it would infect 20 per cent of the Australian population, with up to five per cent of the infected then likely to require hospital care. “Around 80,000 to 200,000 people in Australia may ultimately be hospitalised for swine influenza … with around 8000 deaths,” Dr Senanayake says. “This compared to annual figures of about 18,000 hospitalisations and 3000 deaths directly or indirectly attributable to seasonal influenza.”Dr Senanayake says the mildness of the virus’ effects, so far, had raised questions over the next phase of the response by public health authorities. Rather than raising alert level, there was an argument to relax efforts to ensure laboratory services did not become overwhelmed during the winter’s normal flu season. Dr Senanayake’s comments come from a paper published online on Wednesday by the Medical Journal of Australia (MJA). In another paper, Dr Lindsay Grayson and Dr Paul Johnson, say: “In reality, the severity of the 2009 swine flu outbreak has fallen well short of the worst case scenario”. They say the swine flu has instead revealed areas where Australia’s pandemic planning must be improved, particularly in the delivery of drugs and equipment – such as face masks – to those working on the virus’ frontline. “Some good things have come from the current outbreak,” say the doctors based at the Infectious Diseases and Clinical Epidemiology Department of Austin Health, in Melbourne. “It is possible … that people who caught swine flu this year may have some protection for next year’s possibly more aggressive strain.”

Related articles...

Comments are closed.