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Australia, Vietnam, Japan Join Forces to Fight Swine Flu

  • Phil Mercer

Infectious disease specialists from Australia, Japan and Vietnam are addressing an international seminar in Sydney. Doctors are sharing their experience of caring for patients with the H1N1 virus.

The H1N1 virus, which is commonly known as swine flu, has spread rapidly around the world since emerging in North America earlier this year, yet still much of what makes it so potent a threat remains a mystery.

Sharing expertise will help scientists build up a more comprehensive picture of this contagious respiratory condition.

In Australia more than 130 people have died of swine flu and the number of infections is in excess of 32,000 as the country approaches the end of the southern hemisphere winter.

At Sydney's Royal North Shore hospital a video linkup has allowed doctors from Vietnam and Japan to present case studies and to share their experiences in dealing with a potentially fatal illness.

Professor Chris Dennis, a respiratory physician, who is chairing the seminar, says international cooperation is a vital ingredient in the fight to conquer swine flu.

"Oh, I think it is very important. Obviously this is going to be a disease that affects the entire globe, if it has not already. So, that I think it is extremely important that we have a global strategy, as much as possible, to deal with it," said Dennis.

Vietnam has reported more than 2,000 cases of swine flu and so far two patients have died.

Recent deaths in Japan prompted the government to warn that a "full-fledged epidemic" of swine flu may have started. It is estimated that there are about 110,000 confirmed H1N1 cases in Japan.

Australia's defenses against the outbreak of the H1N1 virus will be boosted when mass flu vaccinations start next month after officials fast-tracked a scheme capable of covering it's entire population of 21 million people.

The process has been speeded up after promising results were recorded in human trials that began in late July. Health officials say trials have gone smoothly and Australia could be the first country anywhere to start a mass immunization program.

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