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Qld: Queensland buys time with flu school closures

By Steve Gray
18 Jun 2009 4:42 PM

BRISBANE, June 18 AAP - Queensland will continue to close schools as part of its response to swine flu.

The federal government on Wednesday moved to a new "protect" phase of response to swine flu, and recommended school closures end in all states by June 22.

But the Queensland government believes it can further slow the spread of swine flu by closing schools as necessary until holidays begin on June 26.

"We've got the opportunity, with six days of school left, to buy 16 days worth of protection when you factor in the school holidays," state Health Minister Paul Lucas said.

"We've had very, very good results from our policies thus far in Queensland.

"Our rate of transmission amongst school-age children, the key transmitter group, is significantly below national and international levels."

Two more schools, Moorooka and Springwood Road state schools, were closed on Thursday, bringing the total number of state schools currently closed to six.

Mr Lucas apologised for the inconvenience experienced by parents and their workplaces, but said it was a sensible precaution.

Chief health officer Dr Jeannette Young said swine flu was a very serious matter for about two per cent of those who contract it.

Dr Young said the school holidays would provide a chance to consolidate the response to the illness and keep the rate of transmission down.

Queensland Health was continuing to advise sick people to stay at home, she said.

"If you're unwell, please stay at home, consider others," Dr Young said.

However, people in contact with the sick but who feel well themselves no longer need to stay in isolation.

Dr Young said those vulnerable to the more serious manifestation of the disease - pregnant women, indigenous people, those with chronic respiratory, renal or heart disease, the morbidly obese and those with neurological conditions - should seek medical assistance if flu symptoms develop.

She said history indicated that if the state government did nothing in response to swine flu about 20 to 25 per cent would catch the disease and about one per cent, or 17,000 people, would require hospitalisation.

"If we can delay this for as long as possible then we've got a chance for the vaccine to become available and we can stop the pandemic using a vaccine," Dr Young said.