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Australia joins Japan to lead Asia-Pacific region in A/H1N1 pandemic fear

Updated: 29 May 2009
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The number of confirmed cases of flu A/H1N1 has rocketed from 61 to 147 across Australia in 24 hours, sparking fresh fears that the new disease will spread rapidly to the Asia-Pacific region.

    

The cruise ship Pacific Dawn, which is believed to be the source of the break-out of the virus in Australia, has been allowed to return to an Australian port where appropriate health support will be available, Health Minister Nicola Roxon said Thursday.

    

Meanwhile, the Australian government has ordered enough vaccine for 10 million people - a little less than half Australia's population, she said.

   

Australia's chief medical officer Jim Bishop authorized the release of a batch of antiviral medication from the national stockpile on Thursday.

    

"Localized releases from the stockpile will enable us to continue with this aggressive containment approach to small clusters of the disease," Roxon said.

    

In New Zealand, the number of confirmed cases of Influenza A/H1N1 remained at nine on Thursday. All sufferers have recovered.

    

Ministry of Health director of public health Mark Jacobs said on Thursday there had been no evidence of community spread of the virus in New Zealand.

    

However, it would become increasingly difficult to keep the virus out of the country as more and more countries see community spread.

    

South Korea's health authorities confirmed a total of five cases on Tuesday, bringing the total number of the country's infected cases to 27.

    

A 28-year-old Korean woman who arrived in Seoul from New York via Tokyo on Sunday was detained at the airport after showing symptoms consistent with the new flu, the Ministry for Health, Welfare and Family Affairs said.

    

Later in the day, four additional cases were confirmed with A/H1N1 flu virus in South Korea. They are four foreign English teachers, one female from Australia and three men from the United States, the health authorities said. The patients are now being treated in isolation after they were confirmed with the infection.

    

In Japan, new lab-confirmed cases came to 361 in ten prefectures on Wednesday following schools in flu-stricken Osaka and Hyogo prefectures resumed classes Monday following a one-week closure.

    

The move came after Japan relaxed its restrictions on measures against the A/H1N1 flu virus, notably those of allowing local authorities to decide whether to close or reopen schools as well as dropping onboard checks of passengers on flights from North America to Japan and lifting its suspension of visa waivers for Mexicans wishing to enter Japan.

    

Certain schools, including Kobe High School and Hyogo High School, where Japan's first cases of the new flu infections were discovered, have yet to reopen.

    

The number of confirmed A/H1N1 cases on the Chinese mainland rose to 15 on Thursday, after one more case each reported in eastern Fujian Province and Shanghai, while new suspected case each reported in Shanghai and Guangdong, health authorities said.

    

The newly confirmed case in Fujian involved a 25-year-old Chinese male who arrived in Beijing Monday evening on Air China flight CA982 from New York and then flew to Fuzhou, capital of Fujian, on CA1821, the same day.

    

China's Hong Kong's education and health authorities on Thursday jointly announced the suspension of a secondary school to prevent possible spread of the A/H1N1 influenza after a girl student was confirmed as the 15th patient of the disease in the city.

    

The United Christian College in Kowloon East, in which the 17-year-old student studies, will be closed for two weeks starting from Thursday.

    

So far, 48 nations and regions have been affected by the virus, more than 13,300 people infected and 95 others dead from the disease, according to the latest information of the WHO website. 

 

SOURCE: Xinhua

 

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