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Mild cases help reduce fears over swine flu

  • Jill Stark, Michael Bachelard and Tom Reilly
  • May 3, 2009
  • Page 1 of 2 | Single Page View
Hong Kong police seal off a hotel where a Mexican had been staying.

Hong Kong police seal off a hotel where a Mexican had been staying. Photo: AP

THE swine flu outbreak that has caused panic around the world may not be as bad as first feared, with fewer than half the suspected cases tested in Mexico returning a positive result.

Health Minister Nicola Roxon has confirmed that at least one Australian living overseas had contracted the virus, with a further four having tests, while Mexican health officials said 381 people tested in that country were infected, with 16 deaths confirmed.

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But the US Centre for Disease Control and Prevention said the Mexican outbreak might not be as severe as first seemed, saying there were many mild cases. About 176 Mexican deaths have previously been blamed on the virus.

Fifteen countries now have confirmed cases, with new infections reported at the weekend in Hong Kong, South Korea, Denmark, France and Russia. In Hong Kong, authorities sealed off a hotel where a 25-year-old Mexican visitor had been staying.

Health officials around the world have cautioned against panic, even as they scramble to prepare a vaccine.

Ms Roxon said yesterday that while it was only a matter of time before the virus was detected in Australia, there had still been no confirmed cases here.

"We have had one Australian confirmed with swine flu in the United Kingdom," she said, adding that a further four Australians overseas were being tested: two in Britain, one in New Zealand and one in Hong Kong.

Pharmacists and doctors around Australia have been inundated by people concerned about the deadly flu strain. Pharmacy Guild of Australia president Kos Sclavos said pharmacists had dispensed more prescriptions for Tamiflu and Relenza in the past week than they normally would in a year.

National Pharmacies, which owns 23 stores in Victoria, has reported huge increases in demand for a range of anti-flu products, including anti-viral drugs, masks, gloves and antiseptic hand-wash.

In the first three weeks of April, the pharmacy chain filled seven prescriptions for anti-viral drugs Tamiflu and Relenza. In four days last week, that number jumped to 180, "mainly for people travelling to Europe and America", said merchandising manager Neil Retallick. Continued...

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