... So that You may be kept informed

Fed: Roxon calls for "nice and proper" flu etiquette

27 May 2009 4:28 PM

CANBERRA, May 27 AAP - Federal Health Minister Nicola Roxon is asking the public to follow a "nice and proper" swine flu etiquette in an attempt to control the rapidly spreading virus.

Her request for people to cover their mouth when they cough and wash their hands comes as the number of confirmed cases of swine flu in Australia doubled in 24 hours to reach 64.

"There is no cause for alarm or panic but we do need people ... to follow a nice and proper flu etiquette," she told parliament on Wednesday.

"It might sound like a strange thing but actually is valuable in the containing of this disease."

There are 33 confirmed cases in Victoria, 18 in NSW, eight in Queensland, three in South Australia, and one in both Western Australia and the ACT.

Ms Roxon said developments overseas suggested the toll would increase significantly over the next 48 hours.

"The community does have to prepare itself for there to be a significant increase in the numbers of cases confirmed, particularly in the coming days," she said.

Ms Roxon suggested all MPs encourage their constituents to call the government's swine flu hotline on 18 020 07 for more information about the disease.

Chief medical officer Jim Bishop will brief MPs on Monday.

Professor Bishop was already providing the opposition with regular briefings through Opposition Leader Malcolm Turnbull and opposition health spokesman Peter Dutton, Ms Roxon said.

She praised the efforts of states and territories in setting up flu clinics to respond to those who believe they may have contracted the influenza A (H1N1) virus.

She warned that with Australia entering its annual flu season, there was a risk of flu viruses combining.

"No one is entirely sure what consequences that will have for the potential for those two flus to combine or for one or the other to be the one that dominates," Ms Roxon said.

But, she said, all Australian cases of swine flu had been mild so far and the quick treatment with antivirals of those infected ensured their speedy recovery.

She said the government would assess when to take further measures against the flu.

Television advertisements will start running on Wednesday night, informing viewers of symptoms and preventive measures that can be taken.

Prof Bishop said the delay in swine flu's arrival in Australia should help avoid the volume of cases other countries have experienced.

"The US was blindsided by this particular outbreak," he said.

"Now, we have the advantage of having all the information from the United States and Europe well in advance."

He said one of the lessons learnt from elsewhere was the need for early treatment, which Australia was implementing by administering the antiviral Tamiflu to those affected and people close to them.