2 October 2009
Australia may face a second wave of pandemic swine flu due to travellers coming back from the Northern Hemisphere winter, health authorities warn.
‘We may face a major out-of-season influenza outbreak due to the importation of the virus back into Australia from infected travellers from the large number of new cases now expected in the Northern Hemisphere,’ said chief medical officer Professor Jim Bishop.
Professor Bishop added that the virus might also mutate and become more virulent.
Federal Health Minister Nicola Roxon said that widespread vaccination in the community was a good way to protect vulnerable people ‘who make up… a quarter to a third of our population’.
Influenza Specialist Group chair Dr Alan Hampson (Hon MD) said that ‘ongoing, grumbling outbreaks’ could continue through summer, and vaccination now could protect people against a resurgence of the virus in early autumn, before next year’s seasonal influenza vaccine was made available.
Meanwhile, experts said pregnant women could be reassured that the amount of mercury in the swine flu vaccine was not harmful.
The Australian Technical Advisory Group on Immunisation (ATAGI) last week issued new advice on thiomersal, a mercury-containing preservative, which will be used in the multi-dose vials of swine flu vaccine.
One dose of the pandemic vaccine drawn from a multi-dose vial would contain 50 mcg of thiomersal, equating to about 0.42 mcg of ethyl mercury in a 60 kg pregnant woman, ‘well below the most conservative upper limit for weekly consumption’, the advice stated. Exposure of the unborn fetus to mercury would be ‘miniscule’, ATAGI said.
Last Reviewed: 02 October 2009