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Medical officer urges Australians not to panic about swine flu
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Australian medical officer urged people on Sunday to be vigilant but not alarmed in response to news that a deadly swine flu appeared in Mexico may have reached Australia's doorstep.

"We're in a good state of preparedness and then obviously it will become clear (in) the next, I guess, few days, week or so, whether more steps need to be taken," Chief medical officer Jim Bishop said in a statement.

The virus, which has infected about 1,100 people in Mexico, seems to be a hybrid form of human, bird and pig flu, Prof Bishop said.

"We're concerned it would produce a new type of flu that might be less predictable. It does seem to be (transmitted from) human to human," Bishop said.

Doctors have been told to alert their local public health authority if they see patients with flu-like symptoms who have traveled overseas in the last fortnight, particularly to Mexico or the U.S.

Australian health department has also been consulting with border agencies and reviewing their preparedness, Bishop said.

The new influenza strain, which has feared to have killed 81 people in Mexico and infected 10 in the U.S., has pandemic potential, the World Health Organization (WHO) warned on Sunday.

Ten New Zealand students just returned from Mexico have tested positive for influenza A and were believed likely to have contracted swine flu, the New Zealand government said earlier today.

The health protection committee of Australia has been liaising with the WHO as well as health authorities in New Zealand and the U.S. to exchange ideas on how to guard the nation from the pig flu outbreak.

(Xinhua News Agency April 26, 2009)

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