Australia is in a good position to respond to the threat of the deadly swine flu that has killed 86 people in Mexico and spread to the United States and Canada, federal Health Minister Nicola Roxon says.
Ms Roxon said Australia has a stockpile of almost nine million doses of antiviral drugs including Relenza, which have proved to be effective overseas.
“With a situation like this we have to be able to act quickly and Australia is in a very good position to act quickly,” Ms Roxon told reporters.
She said the government\’s crisis health committee was meeting on today to decide if new steps, such as screening incoming overseas passengers at airports, will be introduced.
“This is a very serious matter,” she said.
“The World Health Organisation has declared it a public health emergency and that means it is of great concern across the world and here in Australia.
“People need to be alert – this is a significant health issue but one that Australia is very well placed to tackle.”
On Sunday, the New Zealand government announced 10 local students recently returned from Mexico had tested positive for influenza A and were believed “likely” to have contracted swine flu.
Ms Roxon said people travelling overseas, especially to Mexico and North America, should read the updated travel advice on the website of the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade. Travellers can get advice by calling 1300 139 281.
She said she has received advice the flu strain that has hit Mexico is not as virulent outside that country.
Aussies cleared of flu
Health authorities say there are no confirmed cases of swine flu in Australia.
Four people, two in Queensland and two in New South Wales, are believed to have been tested and cleared.
All four had recently been in Mexico.
Australia\’s chief medical officer Jim Bishop says we should be vigilant but not alarmed.
He says all hospital emergency departments and GPs are on alert for symptoms, and Australia has good surveillance systems in place and plenty of antiviral medicines thanks to the bird flu scare.
NZ swabs tested in Melbourne
Meanwhile testing will start today on swabs taken from the 10 New Zealand students who are suspected of having contracted swine flu.
Swabs from the students are being sent to a Melbourne World Health Organisation (WHO) flu research centre.
The 10 Auckland students returned from Mexico on Saturday with flu symptoms.
They have since tested positive for influenza A and are believed “likely” to have contracted swine flu, the New Zealand government said on Sunday.