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Officials urge calm as virus spreads

Staff at Mill Park Secondary College were called in after a swine flu case was confirmed in a year 9 student.

Staff at Mill Park Secondary College were called in after a swine flu case was confirmed in a year 9 student. Photo: Wayne Hawkins

HEALTH authorities are urging Victorians not to panic, despite confirmation yesterday that a 15-year-old Melbourne student has become the 14th Australian to catch swine flu.

The boy, a year 9 student at Mill Park Secondary College, has had no contact with overseas travellers or with any of the other eight confirmed cases in Victoria — proving that swine flu is now spreading through the community in the same way that seasonal influenza does.

He is the third case of "community-acquired" swine flu in Melbourne, following positive tests on a 17-year-old girl from St Monica's College in Epping and on an eight-year-old boy from the western suburbs.

Victorian Health Minister Daniel Andrews said health officials were trying to trace how the three people had contracted the disease in a bid to minimise an outbreak.

Mill Park Secondary College officials yesterday called an urgent meeting of parents and students, at which anti-viral medication was distributed after the Department of Human Services confirmed that the boy had tested positive to the virus.

Twenty-two year 9 students will remain in home quarantine until Thursday and take anti-viral medication for 10 days. The boy and his family, including his parents and two siblings, are also in home quarantine.

The development came as almost 3000 people were quarantined for more than five hours aboard a cruise ship in Sydney Harbour, after four passengers were found to have flu-like symptoms.

Almost 2000 passengers and 900 crew were kept on the Dawn Princess as another 2000 passengers waiting to board were left standing on the dock.

All passengers and crew were eventually allowed to leave the ship but were told to remain in isolation in Sydney until test results on the four ill passengers were known.

AMA head Dr Rosa Capolingua said the latest Victorian case was particularly concerning because it confirmed swine flu was spreading like "regular flu". But Dr Capolingua and other health authorities have urged Melburnians to remain calm: every recorded case in Victoria so far has shown symptoms no more severe than the ordinary seasonal flu, which kills around 2500 Australians a year. Continued...

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