Australia ups swine flu threat level22nd May 2009
Authorities in Australia have raised the country's pandemic threat level as the number of confirmed cases of swine flu rose to 12.
Following a meeting of the Australian Public Health Committee, the government has given itself sweeping powers which could force the closure of schools, public places and big events.
Australia's first case of human-to-human transmission occured in a 10-year-old girl who caught the H1N1 influenza strain from a classmate who fell sick after a family holiday to the United States.
A further two cases were confirmed in teenagers in Melbourne and Adelaide who had not travelled overseas or come into contact with an identified case.
The government promptly escalated its pandemic management plan, shifting to a "containment" phase giving the government greater scope to try to control the spread of the disease.
The phase provides for social distancing measures like school closures, which have already taken place in South Australia and Victoria.
Health Nicola Roxon said there were three more phases to go before the threat level was at its highest.
The threat level was raised in reaction to a new phase of more widespread transmission in Australia, she added.
In Melbourne, a 25 year-old man newly returned from Los Angeles was confirmed as having swine flu, while a 17 year-old boy also tested positive for the virus.
And the 40 year-old mother of a teenage girl from Adelaide, who was South Australia state's first confirmed case, was confirmed as having swine flu, the most recent of the 12 cases.
The girl's brother was awaiting a re-test, officials said.
Investigations are under way into how the teenagers in Melbourne caught the disease, which has prompted the World Health Organisation (WHO) to warn that an influenza pandemic is "imminent".
Neither teenager had been overseas or had known contact with identified cases, and their movements were now being tracked in minute detail, Roxon said, adding that the situation was "serious", though there was no cause for alarm.
Australia's chief medical officer Jim Bishop has warned that the outbreak must be controlled as the country enters the southern hemisphere winter flu season.
Since the outbreak of A(H1N1) influenza emerged in Mexico and the United States a month ago, more than 11,000 confirmed cases and 85 deaths have been recorded.
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Title: Australia ups swine flu threat level
Author: Luisetta Mudie
Article Id: 11472
Date Added: 22nd May 2009