Health authorities estimate up to 6,000 Australians could die from swine flu in a "worst case scenario" during the current Southern Hemisphere winter, the country's health minister said Thursday as Hong Kong and New Zealand reported new fatalities.
But that figure would likely only be reached if no action were taken against the virus, such as using antivirals and vaccines, Health Minister Nicola Roxon told Australian Broadcasting Corp. radio. Australia has ordered 21 million doses of a vaccine, which authorities hope to begin using by October.
There are an average of 2,000 to 3,000 flu-related deaths in Australia per flu season, the health department said.
Australia is the worst-hit nation in the Asia-Pacific region, with 24 swine flu-related deaths and 11,194 confirmed cases of the virus, according to the latest figures from the nation's health department.
Hong Kong reported its first suspected fatal case of swine flu Thursday as the city found 85 more infections.
Thomas Tsang, controller of the city's Center for Health Protection, said the 42-year-old Filipino seaman tested positive for swine flu after his death. He was also found to have infected with community-associated Methicillin Resistant Staphylococcus Aureus, an aggressive antibiotic-resistant staph infection.
"He had two infections at the same time," Tsang told reporters. "At this point in time, we do not rule out that human swine flu might have played a part in his clinical condition and death."
Tsang said the man developed pneumonia when he was admitted to hospital last Wednesday and died of respiratory failure two days later.
Hong Kong now has 1,552 swine flu cases, including five in serious and critical conditions.
Also Thursday, New Zealand confirmed its tenth swine flu-related death. The Ministry of Health said the total number of confirmed cases in the country had risen to 2,107. A total of 113 people were in the hospital with the flu or complications stemming from the virus, including 23 in intensive care.
"We must be careful but we should not panic either," Abhisit said Thursday, urging those who have symptoms to seek medical attention and stay away from public places. "All the appropriate measures are being taken."
Abhisit acknowledged Tuesday that the spread will likely continue through at least 2010.
Wana Hanahaoworakul, a medical epidemiologist with the Department of Communicable Disease Control, said the department projected the number of cases to reach between 100,000 and 500,000.
Thailand has reported 25 fatalities and more than 4,000 people infected. Hundreds of schools in Bangkok have been closed temporarily for cleaning and disinfection.
Last week, the World Health Organization reported nearly 95,000 cases of swine flu worldwide, including 429 deaths.
Source: AP Features