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NSW swine flu toll hits 14 after four more die

| 21.07,09. 07:14 AM |

NSW swine flu toll hits 14 after four more die

July 21, 2009

FOUR more people have died after contracting swine flu, bringing the state's toll to 14 and forcing NSW Health to buy more last-resort cardiac bypass machines from overseas to cope with demand.

Three men, all with underlying medical conditions and aged between 47 and 65, died at the weekend while a fourth patient died yesterday afternoon, but their families did not want any more details released.

Forty-three people with swine flu are fighting for their lives in intensive care units. Most are being treated at Royal Prince Alfred, St Vincent's, Westmead, Liverpool and St George hospitals.

Yesterday St Vincent's cancelled all elective surgery which could require an intensive care bed, while some elective surgery at Liverpool hospital has been rescheduled.

NSW Health is expected to announce today it has bought several cardiac bypass machines, used to oxygenate a patient's blood supply if their lungs are too diseased or damaged for normal mechanical ventilation.

Another two machines have been bought by Royal Prince Alfred Hospital.

Yesterday seven people were being treated statewide using the machines, including two pregnant women, but many had been successfully taken off them, moved to standard ventilators or relocated to wards, the head of intensive care services at Royal Prince Alfred, Robert Herkes, said yesterday. "It has been very, very busy but the good news is we've been able to get some people off [cardiac bypass] and we've been able to spread the load of critically ill patients across all our hospitals with cardiac surgical capabilities, rather than have them concentrated at RPA or St Vincent's."

Dr Herkes said the intensive care unit had been less busy at the weekend than last week, but staff were fearful the pandemic could "flare up" again when children returned to school.

"We're hoping we're now over the hump but children are very good at spreading viruses so we could be in for a tough time."

He said most of those who were becoming "very, very sick" were young, pregnant and overweight. In Britain, passengers using Virgin Atlantic and British Airways have been told they will be banned from flying if they display flu-like symptoms, but there are no plans yet to ban passengers flying from Australian airports.


The national swine flu toll stands at 35, including 14 in Victoria, three in the Northern Territory, two in South Australia, and one each in Queensland, Tasmania and Western Australia.

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