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Tests on two Queenslanders thought to have contracted Swine Flu after visits to Mexico and the US are negative.

New strains of flu emerge every year. What is worrying about this apparently new version of swine flu is not the transmission rate, which is about average, but the fact that it is so deadly – about 6 deaths for every 100 people infected in Mexico. Mortality rates seem to be lower – between 1% and 4% – in more developed countries.

The virus was originally passed from pigs to people, and is easily transmitted from person to person by coughing, sneezing, or even shaking hands with an infected person. You can’t get it from eating pork.

There is not yet an effective vaccine for the current strain.

This could turn out to be another baseless scare, like the 1976 Swine Flu panic.

But it won’t do you any harm to be cautious.

Update.

Spain has confirmed the first case of the new swine flu strain in Europe.

A 23 year old male student who returned from Mexico on Wednesday suffering from a fever, has tested positive for the virus. Another 17 possible cases are being investigated. At this stage none is thought to be life-threatening.

Eight school students in New York have also tested positive for the disease, with another possible 140 also sick, all from the same school, St. Francis Prep in Fresh Meadows. 

There is no doubt the new strain of swine flu will make its way to Australia.

But there is still no reason to panic. Reasonable precautions should minimise any risk of catching the disease.

Even if you do catch swine flu, the indications are that if you are in good health to start with, and have access to good medical care, the mortality rate is very low. Higher of course for elderly people, young children, those in poor health or with impaired immune systems. People in those groups should take extra care.

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