Australia’s second city of Melbourne has become the “swine flu capital of the world”, a report said on Saturday, as the country’s confirmed tally of the disease soared to 1,009.
Some 874 of the infections have been detected in the southern state of Victoria, with most of those cases concentrated in the north and west of the state capital Melbourne, the health department said Saturday.
The disease has spread more than 1,000-fold in the past three weeks, hitting schools in the Melbourne area hard and making Victoria the worst affected area on earth per head of population, The Australian newspaper said.
“Melbourne is now the swine-flu capital of the world, with the H1N1 virus twice as prevalent in the Victorian population as it is in Mexico, where the pandemic began,” the respected daily reported.
“With the state’s comparatively small population, swine flu occurs in about one in 9,139 Victorians -- more than double the one in 21,860 Mexicans with the virus and triple the one in 27,295 people with swine flu in the US,” it added.
Australian swine flu cases now represent about 4.5 percent of the 21,940 confirmed cases in 69 countries reported to the World Health Organisation.
Health Minister Nicola Roxon said late on Friday that swine flu would remain on the rise here for some time.
“I would have thought we are not at the halfway point, given that we still don’t have an extensive spread in Australia,” she told reporters.
She said a vaccine was not yet available and all efforts were being directed at containing the disease.
“The reason it is a marathon is we will potentially have this disease with us not just through this flu season but a risk of it again in the following year,” she said.
The UN health agency said Friday it was maintaining the pandemic alert level at five out of six, signalling that a pandemic is “imminent”.
Several Australian states and territories this week implemented voluntary quarantine measures for children returning from Victoria or the greater Melbourne area to prevent the spread of the disease.