June 15, 2009

Australia Raises National Flu Alert Level

On Sunday, Australia announced that it has raised its swine flu alert level during a time that victims have reached a pandemic amount.

The country's Health Minister Nicola Roxon said that with the national tally reaching almost 1,500 cases, the whole country will soon move to the "sustain" phase in line with the hotspot state of Victoria.

The "sustain" phase is Australia's second highest phase.  It gives authorities the power to cancel sports events, close school and restrict travel, even though officials say extreme measures like closing national borders are unlikely.

On Thursday the World Health Organization (WHO) raised the global alert to a maximum of six, saying that swine flu reached pandemic status because of its geographical spread.

According to the latest WHO figures released Friday, the H1N1 virus strain has already infected nearly 30,000 people in 74 countries, claiming 145 lives since it was first detected in Mexico in April.

In Australia, there have been a total of 1,458 cases of the virus counted, which is the worst hit Asia-Pacific country, with the fifth highest number of cases in the world.

"As the numbers gradually increase in jurisdictions there will be steps over the coming days to move to a consistent alert level," Roxon said.

"It's inevitable that the disease will spread. That's the nature of this type of flu," she added.

Thai Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva told the country not to panic after cases surged in a key tourist hub.

Health authorities reported Sunday that there was 150 confirmed swine flu cases, which is almost 10 times the tally just three days early.  Also, officials said last week that 21 of the new infections were found amongst nightclub workers in the coastal city of Pattaya.

"People should not panic. The death ratio for the new flu is probably lower than normal flu," Abhisit said in his weekly television program.

A fifth person died of swine flu in Canada on Saturday, while the country has reported 540 additional cases adding to the 3,500 total.


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