2 Jun 2009

Nearly 500 confirmed swine flu cases in Australia

10:40 pm on 2 June 2009

The number of swine flu cases in Australia surged again on Tuesday, with Victoria recording another 89 cases, pushing the national tally to nearly 500.

There are fears the number could soar again following Wednesday's State of Origin series opener at Melbourne's Etihad Stadium, where a near sell-out crowd of 50,000 is expected.

New South Wales Premier Nathan Rees and senior ministers were briefed last week on the threat of swine flu infection at the game. Cancelling the game was discussed, but eventually ruled out.

Fourteen Victorian schools have closed.

As of Tuesday night, 395 people in Victoria had tested positive, including a sessional male teacher at Swinburne University's Croydon TAFE campus, which hosts about 1,800 students.

The teacher taught a short-course class of six students on 23 May and Swinburne learnt of the test result last Thursday. He is reportedly suffering a mild case. No classes at the campus have been cancelled.

In Victoria 776 tests for swine flu are still pending. NSW is the next worst-affected state with 64 confirmed cases, followed by Queensland with 24, South Australia with six, and the ACT with four, while Western Australia, Tasmania and the Northern Territory all have one case each, according to federal government figures.

Cruise ship in second scare

A cruise ship has been caught up in a second swine flu scare, with New Caledonian authorities ordering the Dawn Princess to anchor offshore while five passengers and a crew member are tested.

The ship left Sydney on 24 May with 1,996 passengers and 850 crew aboard for a 13-day South Pacific cruise which was due to end in Sydney on Friday.

Passengers were scheduled to visit the port of Lifou on Tuesday, but when crew informed New Caledonian authorities six people on board were suffering flu-like symptoms, they requested no passengers be allowed to disembark.

The ill passengers and the crew member have been quarantined in their rooms, the ship's owner, Carnival Australia, said.

The ship had already travelled to ports in Fiji and Vanuatu before arriving at Lifou.

Officials from New Caledonia have collected swabs from those ill and the samples will be flown to Sydney and tested before the ship arrives on Friday.

Four passengers aboard the ship during its previous voyage were tested for swine flu after it arrived in Sydney on 23 May.

They were cleared of the virus, but the testing delayed the departure of the vessel by seven hours, leaving 2,000 passengers waiting to disembark and about the same number waiting to board.