Don't be complacent over swine flu

WITH the number of suspected cases of swine flu at 85 in NSW, the North Coast last night remained one of the only health regions in the State with none.

No cases have been confirmed as yet and the results of tests on the first batch of suspected cases are expected to be released today.

The number of suspected cases in the Hunter and New England climbed to 12 yesterday, with nine suspected cases on the Central Coast and Northern Sydney.

The largest number of suspected cases, 25, is concentrated in South-Eastern Sydney and the Illawarra.

The director of population health for the North Coast Area Health Service, Paul Corben, is urging everyone to take special care with their health to help restrict the spread of seasonal flu in the community.

He said in the event of an outbreak of swine influenza this would help to ease the strain on the health workforce.

The threat of an outbreak of the new strain of influenza has come at a time when seasonal flu usually makes its appearance.

The incidence of seasonal flu varies dramatically from year to year and vaccinations are available.

You can protect yourself and others from seasonal flu by keeping well, maintaining your immune system at its peak with good nutrition, regular exercise, adequate sleeps and good hygiene.

Mr Corben said it was important for people to be very conscientious with hand washing.

Use a tissue for sneezing and coughing and a mask if necessary and dispose of tissues into waste bins.

If you do develop flu, do not 'crack hardy' and go to work - you will only spread flu among your work colleagues.

Mr Corben said anyone who had ever had the flu, with its aches and pains, fever, cough and fatigue, would recognise that it was completely different from the common cold.

He said the only people who were at risk from swine flu, which is a new strain believed to be a combination of swine flu, avian flu and human flu, were travellers.

Anyone who has returned from overseas within the past seven days and who has flu-like symptoms is asked to contact their local hospital emergency department or GP as a matter of urgency.

Mr Corben said they had emergency plans in place in case of an escalation of the threat from the disease, which included using other emergency services as well as health officials, but there was currently no need for these to be activated.

These measures include the establishment of mass vaccination centres. While there is currently no vaccine to protect against swine flu, two recently-released antiviral drugs, Tamiflu and Relenza, have been reported to be effective in treating the symptoms of the disease, if administered in the early stage.

Australia now has 128 suspected cases of swine flu, but no confirmed cases.

Medical imaging technology is being installed at Sydney Airport which will scan travellers for signs of increased temperatures.

If someone is suspected of having a fever, they will be triaged by a doctor or a nurse.

NSW Health Minister John Della Bosca said changes to the Public Health Act had taken effect yesterday, with Swine Influenza in Humans added to the schedule of diseases listed in the state's Public Health Act.

Blood donations from travellers who have returned from Mexico in the last 16 days are being deferred by the Red Cross Blood Service.

Further information is available from the Swine Flu Hotline on 1802007 or the NSW Health website www.health.nsw.gov.au/publichealth/swine_flu.asp



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