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Swine Flu Continues its March Through Australia

As the number of the H1N1 cases in Australia surges past 1,200, Singapore is warning its citizens to avoid travel to the badly affected southern state, Victoria. With more than 1,000 cases, Victoria has the world's highest per capita rates of infection. Less than a month ago the state had only a handful of cases of the H1N1 virus, which is commonly known as swine flu.

Australia has the world's highest number of infections outside North America.

Victoria and the state capital, Melbourne, continue to be the worst-hit region. More than 1,000 confirmed cases of the swine flu have been reported in Victoria.

Several of those infected are being treated at hospitals, but Australia has reported no swine flu fatalities. However, the Queensland state Health Minister Paul Lucas says that it is inevitable there will be deaths in Australia from the outbreak.

Major sporting events, including an international swimming meeting, have been canceled and business leaders are predicting a significant downturn in tourism.

Singapore is urging its citizens to avoid travel to Victoria, believing the risks are too high.

Authorities in the states of New South Wales and South Australia, as well as the national capital, Canberra, say children who travel to Melbourne should stay away from school for a week on their return home.

But Wayne Kayler-Thomson, the chief executive of the Victorian Employers' Chamber of Commerce and Industry, believes such measures are an over-reaction and are damaging the state's economy.

"What we would like is, perhaps, more facts about just what the severity of this flu virus might be and what the real impacts might be, so that we are not dealing with alarmist attitudes here," said Kayler-Thomson. "We are dealing with reality because it does have an impact upon reputation and people's travel plans and travel habits and that is going to be something that we are going to have to deal with."

Several professional rugby players have been quarantined after a player contracted the H1N1 virus. A military parade near Canberra was canceled after a cadet fell ill with swine flu.

Every Australian state and territory is now affected by the outbreak. The famed remote central desert town, Alice Springs, has confirmed its second case of swine flu.

In Western Australia several more schools have sent children home, as the number of infections in the state rose to 20.

The global outbreak emerged following a raft of infections in Mexico in April. Experts have said that an effective vaccine could still be weeks away.