PM - Tuesday, 28 April , 2009 18:14:00
Reporter: David Mark
MARK COLVIN: More than 150 people are now known to have died in the Mexican swine flu outbreak. The World Health Organization has reacted to the threat posed by the disease by lifting the level of the influenza pandemic alert from three to four.
The disease is spreading with confirmed cases in four countries and suspected cases in 11.
David Mark reports.
DAVID MARK: The swine flu outbreak is not a pandemic - yet. The World Health Organization has lifted its pandemic threat alert level from three to four. It's a six-step scale with six meaning a global pandemic so stage four means a pandemic is likely but not inevitable.
Professor Dominic Dwyer is a medical virologist at Westmead Hospital and a member of the national influenza advisory group.
DOMINIC DWYER: I think it is significant. It is recognition that there is definite transmission from person to person in Mexico and that there has been transmission of cases to other parts of the world. So I think the WHO are reflecting the real activity.
DAVID MARK: The swine flu death toll is at more than 150 in Mexico and the disease is also spreading in other countries. In the United States 44 people have the disease. There are six in Canada and now there are confirmed cases outside the Americas, in Spain and Scotland.
No cases have been confirmed in Australia although health authorities are still monitoring 43 people who may have the disease.
The Prime Minister Kevin Rudd.
KEVIN RUDD: This is a serious international concern for public health and therefore we share that concern with other governments around the world, which is why the Australian Health Protection Committee has been actively monitoring developments around the world and providing the Australian Government with advice as to the necessary sequence of actions to take here.
DAVID MARK: Australia has started throwing up the barriers. From last night pilots flying in from the Americas have had to report on the health of their passengers. Even so the Greens leader Senator Bob Brown says the Government should be doing more.
BOB BROWN: We need the information coming out from Government. It's coming out slowly, but I think they ought to have been faster with the, for example, checks on planes. They could have been a couple of days faster with that. And I think they should be a little faster in informing the public about what measures to be taken.
DAVID MARK: And there are some who believe trying to stop the swine flu from coming to Australia will be virtually impossible.