1 Jun 2009

Australia's swine flu tally passes 400

9:15 pm on 1 June 2009

Australia's swine flu tally has passed 400 as Victoria recorded a massive surge in cases, most of them children.

By Monday afternoon the number of confirmed cases in the state had risen to 306, an increase of 94 in 24 hours.

According to official federal Health Department figures there were 64 confirmed cases in New South Wales, 18 in Queensland, six in South Australia, four in the ACT, and one each in Tasmania, the Northern Territory and Western Australia.

But Queensland Health officials said on Monday evening the state now had 22 confirmed cases, the latest being teenage girls.

Most of the new cases in Victoria also involved young people aged five to 18, prompting a 12th Victorian school to be closed on Monday.

Two schools in Cairns also will be closed this week after two 13-year-old girls tested positive for the virus.

Federal Health Minister Nicola Roxon said the government was assessing whether to elevate the nation's response to the disease from the contain to the sustain phase.

Victoria is already preparing to move into the sustain phase, under which quarantining is limited to those who share a home with a confirmed swine flu patient.

In the contain phase, anyone who has had contact with a swine flu patient is quarantined voluntarily and given antiviral drugs for a week.

Australia's chief medical officer, Professor Jim Bishop, said the advice to people with flu-like symptoms may change as swine flu evolved.

At present, people who come down with flu-like symptoms, especially if they have recently travelled to an affected country, are being advised to seek medical advice.

Professor Bishop said in the future, fit and healthy people may be told to stay at home and only those in at-risk groups, including those with respiratory problems and asthma, will be advised to visit their GP.

P&O ship given all-clear

The swine flu-affected ship Pacific Dawn docked in Sydney at 8am local time on Monday after authorities from New South Wales Health gave it the all-clear.

The P&O ship was forced to cut short its trip to the Barrier Reef last week when three crew tested positive for the virus.

A senior NSW Health doctor and 25 nurses boarded the ship in Brisbane on Saturday, testing all 2,500 people on board during the two-day voyage to Sydney.

More than 15,000 people in 53 countries have tested positive to swine flu, with deaths totalling 99.