Swine flue could hit one in five
As many as one in five Australians may contract swine flu as the virus continues to spread rapidly, authorities have warned.
As the national total of confirmed cases exceeded 60, Victoria's acting chief medical officer Rosemary Lester said up to 20 percent of the population
could contract the potentially deadly virus over the coming year.
"We have seen this pattern in countries such as the US, Canada and Japan, so next year this may well be the predominant virus,'' she said.
"We would expect that this virus will become one of the seasonal circulating viruses."
Victoria is the worst-hit state with 32 confirmed cases after eight more people were diagnosed with the strain overnight, with the infection
penetrating Melbourne's eastern suburbs for the first time.
In NSW, the entire state cabinet has been caught up in a swine flu scare after it emerged Tourism Minister Jodi McKay travelled on a flu-affected
flight, then met with colleagues. (Read more: Threat to NSW cabinet)
Federal Health Minister Nicola Roxon appealed for calm over the outbreak, but warned she expected the number of confirmed cases to rise sharply in the
She said a vaccine was in the early stages of development, a complicated process which would probably take some months.
"It's why every week that we can delay this disease spreading more widely in the community is buying us more time when we'll have this vaccine to
treat it," she said. (Read more: Vaccine 'months away')
Professor Terry Nolan, head of population health at the University of Melbourne, said a vaccine would take time because the virus first had to be
grown in a laboratory from an existing sample.
"The vaccines take about three months, perhaps a bit longer, depending on testing," he told ninemsn.
"If the virus is in full circulation, authorities may weigh up the risk versus reward of the testing [and release the vaccine immediately]."
Meanwhile, the Australian Tourism Council has attacked politicians and the media for provoking "hysteria" over the swine flu outbreak. (Read more:
Appeal to end 'overreaction')
The council's managing director Matthew Hingerty said businesses were already feeling the pinch as overseas tourists expressed reluctance to come to
Last night anger mounted over the decision to allow passengers aboard the cruise ship Pacific Dawn to disembark in Sydney, despite dozens of them
either reporting flu-like symptoms or saying they had been in contact with people with symptoms. (Read more: Passenger slams 'irresponsible'
But the public should remember that Australian cases of the virus at this stage appeared to be very mild, former University of Adelaide virology
professor Chris Burrell said.
"It's looking at the moment that the virulence is no greater than the seasonal flu viruses we get each winter," he told ninemsn.
"But it's a completely new virus and spreading very easily … the whole world is like a virgin population."