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Flu and pregnancy clinic share same roof

The NSW Opposition has accused the state government of potentially harming pregnant women, by locating a swine flu clinic next door to an ante-natal unit at a Sydney hospital.

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Nurses at Bankstown Hospital in Sydney’s west have spoken out about the location of the clinic, which has seen patients with swine flu symptoms sharing the same waiting rooms as pregnant women.

Opposition Leader Barry O’Farrell says the Bankstown hospital’s arrangements fly in the face of the government’s own swine flu advice concerning pregnant women, who are particularly susceptible to the virus.

Both the NSW and federal governments, and health authorities, have warned pregnant women to try to avoid public places, for fear they may contract the virulent influenza strain.

Only this week an unborn child in Queensland was killed by the virus, when a 36-week pregnant 19-year-old woman lost her unborn baby because of swine flu complications.

“Pregnant women, according to everyone from the health department to the government, are at greater risk of influenza generally and swine flu in particular given what is happening in their bodies,” Mr O’Farrell told Macquarie Radio yesterday.

“This is an absurdity and it flies in the face of all the warnings, all the alleged protocols that (Premier) Nathan Rees and (Health Minister) John Della Bosca say exist.

“What we want the state government to do is to say how many other hospitals are engaging in similar, unsafe and reckless at risk.”

Cricketers get flu scare

Meanwhile Australia’s Ashes stars suffered a swine flu scare after one of the journalists covering Ricky Ponting’s squad was diagnosed with symptoms similiar to the illness currently sweeping across England.

There have been an estimated 100,000 new cases of swine flu reported in England since last week and 840 patients are in hospital with the virus, so Cricket Australia were quick to act when News Limited reporter Ben Dorries found he may have been infected.

Dorries became ill during the second Ashes Test at Lord’s this week and a British doctor suggested during a telephone consultation that he could have swine flu, although that has not been officially confirmed.

He has been asked to stay away from the team for the next three days but Cricket Australia said that no member of the squad had shown any symptoms of swine flu.

Dorries has not been staying in the team’s hotel over the past 10 days and his main contact with players would have been at press conferences.

He was prescribed Tamiflu and has since remained in London while the Australians travelled to Northampton for this week’s tour match.

A statement issued by Cricket Australia said: “Australian team medical staff have asked that Ben quarantine himself away from the Australian team and other cricketing media for the next three days.

“These measures are being taken as a precautionary step. There is no indication that anybody associated with the Australian team has the same symptoms.”

At a glance: How nuclear waste is stored

In an interview from Melbourne University’s Upclose podcast, Mr Sevior said the Scandinavians, the Nordic countries have a very well developed series of proposals for handling their waste.

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“A nuclear power plant requires around 30 tonnes of fuel per year. At the end of this period of time, at the end of one year it is what’s called spent nuclear fuel and is highly radioactive.

“So what happens then is it’s placed into cooling ponds and it’|s allowed to cool for five years. In this first period of time a lot of the radioactivity dies away till it’s less than 1/10 of what it was when it first was emitted.

“Subsequently, it is placed in either dry storage, then the proposal is to place it into long term geologic storage.

“Now the long time geologic storage developed by the Nordic countries, involves a number of different stages.

“So first stage, is you take the nuclear fuel, and you place it inside a cast iron insert.

“Take the cast iron insert and place it inside a copper canister. You take the copper canister and you place it inside benonite clay.

“And then you take the whole assembly and bury it 500 metres under ground. So the idea is to develop a series of multiple barriers in case something goes wrong with one.

“The next one will succeed in containing the waste. Now each of these barriers are separately designed to be stable for a long period of time.

“For example the copper canister, the innermost or the second most barrier to the waste has been observed to not corrode over a very long time period of time, so for example copper and brass canons from Roman times found at the bottom of the Mediterranean Ocean, have been found to not corrode over a 2,000 year period.

“So you can extrapolate that and say if you put copper in an aqueous environment and remove all of the oxygen, it basically doesn!|t corrode. So what you do then with the benonite clay is arrange that scenario.

“The benonite clay when it absorbs water, ground water, when buried deep underground, swells and expels all of the oxygen.

“So you can actually provide this anaerobic environment, this oxygen for the environment to keep the copper from corroding.

“In addition the benonite clay itself is a substantial barrier should the copper corrode. benonite clays have been observed to contain organic products like pieces of trees for over 500,000 years later, so the piece of tree is still there 500,000 years later.

“Finally you place this thing 500 metres underground in granite rock. The bacteria you find in this granite rock has been observed to retain the fission products, the radioactivity products, that might leap from the benonite clay.

Nuclear waste problem ‘still unresolved’

David Noonan, Nuclear free campaigner for the Australian Conservation Foundation is against nuclear power

“All the concerns with nuclear power plants and nuclear waste are all unresolved as they have been in the past”, he told SBS.

The issues of waste management, inherent risks of weapons, proliferation and terrorism are all increasing in the world now.”

“No country has a disposal site for high level nuclear waste. Countries that claim to be making some progress — whether that’s Sweden or others in northern Europe — are totally unrepresentative of the nuclear industry.

“They may hold 3-4 per cent of nuclear material, nuclear reactors and nuclear output, but with this public relations claim that nuclear has a role in the future, they are looking to expand nuclear into the developing world, and they will expose those communities to the high level nuclear risks that the west has been unable to resolve,” Mr Noonan said.

“It’s over 50 years into the nuclear experiment and none has demonstrated the long term isolation of this nuclear waste, no one has been able to deliver a community consensus on whetter that may be done.

At a glance: Coastal erosion & Australia

The Australian governments could be given the power to force people in coastal areas to move from their land due to climate change, a report released in late October said.

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FULL REPORT: Managing our Coastal Zone in a Changing Climate: the Time to Act is Now

A report into the effects of climate change on the coastal regions was issued by the House of Representative’s Standing Committee on Climate Change, Water, Environment and the Arts.

The 18 month inquiry said that rising sea levels, more frequent storms, cyclones and floods along the coastline are putting beach front properties at risk.

As a result the inquiry has canvassed the option of forced retreats with the “the possibility of a government instrument that prohibits continued occupation of the land”.

Queensland is noted as the most at risk as rising sea levels will potentially affect billions of dollars of beachfront housing.

The report does not go into whether landholders would be fully compensated for the forced retreats and, if so, who would pay.

Another option raised in the report is forcing coastal residents to pay a regular levy to compensate those amongst them who have to move due to climate change.

It concluded that action to combat the effects of climate change on the coast was urgently needed, as was national leadership.

It is estimated that 80 per cent Australians live near the coast.

What is coastal erosion?

Coastal erosion is the permanent loss of land along the shoreline.

The coast is constantly adjusting to changes in wave and tide processes and sediment supply, so it is important to distinguish between short-term changes in the coast and long-term coastal erosion.

Short-term shoreline change

Short-term shoreline changes do not constitute coastal erosion.

There changes occur over periods of days to several years. It is most obvious during storms when high wave energy actively removes sand from beaches.

During storms waves reach a backshore area and erode sand from it. The important function of this backshore is to act as sand reservoir during storms. In the following months normal weather and wave patterns may cause sand to be replaced on beaches.

Long-term coastal erosion

Long-term coastal erosion occurs over years to decades. The varying coastline is observed to gradually move landward.

This recession of the shoreline represents long-term erosion.

For the past two decades sea level rise has been singled out as a likely cause of erosion throughout the Pacific, the Australian Bureau of Metereology says.

But while rising sea level is one possible factor, climatic variability may also be a significant cause of coastal erosion.

Currently interannual changes in weather patterns can alter the wind, wave and sea level patterns on islands throughout the Pacific.

Natural causes of erosion

*Changes in wave climate such as an increase in wave height, change in the angle of wave approach or increased frequency of high magnitude waves.

*Reduction in the amount of sediment delivered to the coast from reef.

*Rising sea level.

Human-induced causes of erosion

*Sand extraction from beaches that reduces the sand volume of the coast.

*Coral mining.

*Insertion of structures such as seawalls which locally alter wave processes and change sediment transport patterns.

*Removal of mangroves.

US believers going green for Lent

From giving up their cars to abandoning their Facebook pages, many US Christians are being called on to help reduce global warming and turn their backs on Internet distractions over Lent.

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“It\’s an insult to God, it\’s a sin to spoil the environment, to hurt creation,” said Episcopalian pastor Reverend Sally Bingham, who is coordinating ‘The Regeneration Project,’ an interfaith group of some 4,000 congregations looking for a religious response to global warming.

‘Green’ lent

During Lent, which began this year on February 25 and will end on April 11 the day before Easter, Christians are called to observe sacrifice and penance marking the time Jesus endured temptation when he wandered for 40 days in the desert.

The idea of a “green” Lent was launched last year by two British Anglican bishops, who called for a “carbon fast,” Bingham told AFP.

“We sent an email to the 30,000 people on our mailing list and we suggested tips to try to be as environmentally friendly as you can be,” she said.

Top tips for being green

Among the tips: giving up your car, turning down the heat or buying local.

“This year, I gave up meat. Last year, I turned off my heat. I had to wear a ski parka inside my house. My children would not visit, they thought I\’d gone crazy,” Bingham said.

Another Catholic group, the St Paul Newman Center in Fresno, California, is organizing a “Lent program on global warming.”

“Lent is a time we focus on how we can really connect to God\’s presence in our life and do something that is sacrificial. For us, it\’s a look at how we care for the environment while sacrificing some comforts for ourselves,” said Mary Hetherington, who helps teach the program.

The courses promote a “low-carbon diet” to reduce carbon emissions by 5,000 pounds (2,268 kilograms) in 40 days.

Among the lessons: dry your clothes on a clothesline instead of in a dryer, thus saving the equivalent of 100 pounds (45 kilograms) of carbon emissions.

“Try a media fast,” suggests The Regeneration Project. “It can be very rewarding to turn off TV, computers and radios a few nights a week and sit down to a board game with your family.”

Detox from the digital world

An Italian bishop in Modena has called for giving up texting during Lent in order to “detoxify from the virtual world and become one again.”

Across American universities, students are also giving up social networking websites like Facebook.

“The fundamental idea is to say if something is a distraction from prayer and fasting then to the extent possible, it should be given up,” explained Paul Griffiths, a professor in Catholic theology at Duke Divinity School.

“It\’s not a sin, it\’s a distraction,” he told AFP, adding that cyber asceticism is part of the traditions of the Catholic church, even though the Vatican has a YouTube channel and a website in eight languages.

The online discussion group “Give up Facebook for Lent” gives tips on how to avoid going online without missing virtual visits by “friends” on the 75 million-strong social networking website.

Nola Bozeman, a 42-year-old housewife in Apex, North Carolina, used to log on to Facebook every morning.

“It was becoming an obsession,” she acknowledged. But she has now decided to deprive herself of the Internet.

“I thought if I spent half the amount of time I spend on Facebook in prayer or service, it would draw me closer to God.”

Arnie\’s Youth Corps will keep California green

Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger announced the creation of a youth environmental corps tasked with protecting California\’s verdant ecology, while training for future employment in the emerging ‘green economy.

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At least 1,000 young Californians in the program, aged 16 to 24, will be paid with funds from President Barack Obama\’s recently-approved federal stimulus plan, Schwarzenegger said in a statement.

“President Obama and I share similar priorities right now when it comes to helping the economy rebound and creating a greener California and America,” Schwarzenegger said in a statement.

Green jobs for youth ‘at risk’

“In California we will utilize federal economic stimulus funds and public-private partnerships to help stimulate our economy while initiating actions to improve our environment,” said Schwarzenegger, who stressed that the jobs are targeted toward youth considered “at-risk” of failing academically, foundering in the work place or getting into trouble with the law.

“Green jobs are exactly what our economy and environment need right now — and the California Green Corps targets that need, while helping at-risk young adults realize a brighter future,” the governor said.

The program will consist of a minimum of 10 regional Green Corps throughout California — at least one regional in each of California\’s nine economic regions.

The program, which gets off the ground as a 20-month pilot program, makes use of at least 10 million dollars in federal economic stimulus funds from the US Department of Labor and an additional 10 million from public-private partnerships, the governor said.

Climate talks end in failure

International talks which aim to break the deadlock on climate change have largely failed.

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Two weeks of UN-sponsored climate talks in Bangkok will wrap up tonight, without the breakthrough negotiators were seeking.

The talks aimed to make progress ahead of the crucial UN summit in Copenhagen in December, at which a new climate pact is due to be signed.

Will McGoldrick, who works for the Australian-based Climate Institute and has been at the Bangkok talks, said only “baby steps” had been made.

The two big sticking points are the targets nations will adopt to cut greenhouse gas emissions, and how rich countries will fund poor ones to tackle climate change.

“Bangkok has made cautious progress on some of the elements, but nowhere near enough progress on those two core issues,” Mr McGoldrick told AAP from the Thai capital.

Some progress has been made on technological cooperation and forests.

Financing for poor nations needed

But it was now clear that little progress on reduction targets would be made until rich nations such as Australia made commitments about financing poor countries, Mr McGoldrick said.

“It does turn the spotlight onto countries like Australia who have yet to really make a credible contribution on finance.”

Tony Mohr, from the Australian Conservation Foundation, who has been at the talks, said Australia had been active on some issues, pushing for a deal on cutting emissions from international aviation and shipping.

Australia was also negotiating over its proposal to allow developing nations to make discrete pledges in relation to renewable energy or forests, instead of economy-wide emissions targets.

But Australia had to make a commitment on financing to boost negotiations, Mr Mohr said.

Fresh mandate

A spokeswoman for Climate Change Minister Penny Wong said negotiators would need fresh mandates and political leadership as Copenhagen approached.

“We are a long way from where we need to be and we don’t have much time,” she said.

There is one more session of UN talks before Copenhagen, at Barcelona, in November.

Attention will now turn to other forums – the Major Economies Forums and the G20 – for a breakthrough.

Observers say it will take intervention from world leaders to fire up the stalled negotiations.

Climate change dividing coal communities

Climate change is presenting a unique challenge to Australia’s coal sector.

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SBS’ reporter Keith Breene looks at how this issue is dividing communities across the country.

Muswellbrook in the Hunter Valley is, by any definition, a coal town. There are very few people there who aren’t directly or indirectly associated with the industry.

So perhaps it’s no surprise that when it comes to the issue of climate change the community is sharply divided.

Jeff Drayton, a miner and a life long resident of Muswellbrook, is also the town’s deputy mayor. He doesn’t think getting rid of coal is an option.

“I’m not sure phasing coal out is the answer – not only does it underwrite our community in the Hunter Valley but it probably has – certainly recently – underwritten the whole country’s economy,” Mr Drayton said.

“I don’t think probably in my lifetime we’re going to see a life without coal. Absolutely I think there has be a life with cleaner coal – better technologies. But not a life without cleaner coal, no.”

Pete Kennedy is a miner too, like four generations of his family before him. He is one of a small, but growing, number of people willing to criticise the way the industry is dealing with climate change.

“They talk about it. They’ve employed the world best spin doctors as far as that’s concerned but I don’t believe what they’re saying,” Mr Kennedy said.

“They say yes we’re worried about climate change and all this but the way that the mining industry is expanding I don’t think they give two hoots about it.”

He is so disillusioned he has told his children not to follow him into the industry.

“I believe I’m one of a small bunch of people that are slowly coming around to realising that climate change is here and now and there is evidence that if we don’t do something about the burning of fossil fuels which is directly linked to this climate chaos we’re seeing the situation is going to get slowly worse and we’re heading for a worldwide disaster.”

Given the how much people depend on mining in Muswellbrook, Pete Kennedy’s is still the minority view.

“With three in four people earning a living out of the coal mines you’re probably not going to walk down the street of Muswellbrook or Singleton and some of those places and not get the answer that I’d probably give you which is that obviously people still do support he coal mines predominantly because that’s where we earn our living – that’s why I live where I do here”.

“It is how I support my family as do 70 or 80 percent of the local population”.

The industry is a powerful economic force on which many livelihoods depend. But concern over climate change does appear to be growing – even in communities that depend on coal.

Anger over treatment of swine flu patient

A man diagnosed with swine flu after he died had waited up to three hours for an intensive care hospital bed the day of his death because none were available in Victoria, his parents say.

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Victorian health authorities say the man, 35-year-old Anthony Splatt of the western district town of Colac, tested positive to the influenza A(H1N1) virus but will not say whether it caused his death.

Anthony Splatt went to Colac Hospital with flu-like symptoms on Friday and was transferred to Maroondah Hospital in Melbourne’s outer east, where he died on Saturday.

Test results released on Tuesday show he had tested positive for swine flu after swabs were taken following his death.

His parents, Brian and Judith Splatt, say their critically ill son waited at the Colac Hospital for three hours for an intensive care bed, which was eventually found at Maroondah Hospital.

“His poor GP was pacing the floor in Colac because he was getting sicker and sicker,” Ms Splatt, a nurse, told the Herald Sun newspaper.

Mr Splatt said: “There were no beds in Victoria. It seemed like forever (before a bed was found). We hope in a way his death makes more intensive care beds available.”

Victoria’s acting chief health officer Rosemary Lester said Anthony Splatt had a range of underlying medical conditions.

She would not confirm whether his death was a direct result of swine flu or one of the other medical conditions.

“I’m obviously not the clinician – that’s for the clinicians to decide what he’s died from,” Dr Lester said.

“My information is that it is respiratory failure but other than that I can’t make any comment.”

Dr Lester said the man received treatment consistent with the symptoms of his severe illness.

“He wouldn’t have been treated any differently if we’d known that he had swine flu from the outset.

“He arrived with an influenza-like illness and then, I believe, he rapidly deteriorated. “His respiratory function deteriorated and he went into shock quite quickly.”

The Splatts said Anthony seemed to be suffering from a common cold before he collapsed at home two days before he died.

By Friday, they were told he had only a 20 per cent chance of surviving as his respiratory system began to fail.

The death comes amid fears that indigenous Australians in remote communities may be particularly vulnerable to the disease.

A 26-year-old man from Kiwirrkurra in Western Australia last week became the first person with swine flu to die in Australia.

Federal Health Minister Nicola Roxon said people in remote indigenous communities may be hit harder by swine flu than those elsewhere. She said federal and state governments were taking steps to ensure they received adequate supplies of Tamiflu, the antiviral drug used to treat the illness.

US House passes historic climate change bill

By a 219-212 margin, lawmakers voted for the first time in US history to limit heat-trapping carbon emissions and shift the US economy to cleaner energy in a move backers said will create jobs and restore Washington’s shaky leadership on climate change ahead of global talks set for December.

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The pitched political battle over a central plank of Obama’s platform now shifts to the US Senate, where the prospects for action this year are uncertain and where outspoken foes of the House approach wield considerable clout. In his weekly radio address Saturday, Obama urged senators to pass the clean energy bill, calling it “a historic piece of legislation that will open the door to a clean energy economy and a better future for America.” The president asked the senators not to be afraid of the future or be prisoners of the past. “Don’t believe the misinformation out there that suggests there is somehow a contradiction between investing in clean energy and economic growth,” he argued. “It’s just not true.” The “American Clean Energy and Security Act” aims to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 17 percent from 2005 levels by 2020, and 83 percent by 2050, create “green” jobs, and wean the US economy from oil imports. Day-long debate The bitter, day-long debate pitted supporters who argued the bill would put a shine back on the battered US economy and foes who described the measure’s more than 1,200 pages as a grim recipe for long unemployment lines. “Just remember these four words for what this legislation means — jobs, jobs, jobs, jobs. Let’s vote for jobs,” Democratic House Speaker Nancy Pelosi exhorted her colleagues minutes before the vote. Republican House Minority Leader John Boehner warned the measure would send energy costs skyrocketing and denounced it as “the biggest job-killing bill that has ever been on the floor of the House.” Senate Democratic Majority Leader Harry Reid hailed the House’s “courageous step” but warned “the bill is not perfect” while vowing to “pass bipartisan and comprehensive clean energy and climate legislation this fall.” Environmentalists were elated. Carl Pope, executive director of the Sierra Club, the biggest US environmental group, said that Congress had now taken the first step toward “unleashing a true clean energy revolution.” ‘Cap and trade’ system The bill, the fruit of months of tough negotiations, would create a “cap-and-trade” system limiting overall pollution from large industrial sources and then allocating and selling pollution permits. The Democratic-crafted bill would require utilities, by 2020, to get 15 percent of their electricity from renewable resources – solar, wind, geothermal, and biomass – and show annual energy savings of five percent from efficiency measures. The European Union plan calls for getting 20 percent of all electricity from renewable resources by 2020. Obama, who spent part of the day courting wavering lawmakers, said as he met with German Chancellor Angela Merkel hours before the vote that he hoped the United States was reasserting its role after letting Europe lead for years. “The United States, over the last several years, has not been where we need to be. We’re not going to get there all in one fell swoop, but I’m very proud of the progress that’s being made,” he told Merkel at the White House. Vow to working with rising economies Obama also vowed to work with rising economies that are also major polluters, like China and India, amid worries that the bill may hamstring the US economy and send jobs fleeing to countries that lack similar restrictions. “India and China will not shatter their own economies with this sort of scheme, and its nonsensical for America to impose a job killer like this on ourselves,” said the number two House Republican, Representative Eric Cantor. The US Environmental Protection Agency estimates that implementing the legislation would cost 80-111 dollars per US household per year, while the Congressional Budget Office says it would run about 175 dollars.

Third Aussie in London may have swine flu

An Australian journalist living in London has been told she ‘probably’ has swine flu but is awaiting tests to confirm.

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Kate Corbett says tests have shown she has Influenza A and but she is still waiting to find out if it is the H1N1 variant, after she travelled overseas with a friend who has been confirmed as having swine flu.

Ms Corbett said she had travelled in Mexico with a friend for a wedding. He had now been diagnosed as having the potentially deadly virus, she told ABC Radio.

However, her friend\’s girlfriend, who\’d also gone to Mexico with him, had tested negative.

Ms Corbett said she returned to England showing flu symptoms, but was not actually tested because she didn\’t have a fever or know her friend was sick.

Precautionary measures

However, she has now tested positive for influenza A and British medical authorities say she is in the probable category for a swine flu diagnoses.

“I only found out on Thursday about my friend and as a result of him being ill, I have been put onto the next precaution up.”

As a consequence Ms Corbett was tested for H1N1 on Friday.

“My doctor came over all suited up with a face mask and an apron and he tested me taking swabs from the back of my nose and back of my throat – quite uncomfortable.

“But one of those tests has come back and that\’s Influenza A, and that was positive and now I just have to wait to see if I test positive for the H1N1 and that takes a bit longer.

Waiting but not concerned

“I\’ll just have to wait. They can\’t give me any time frame.

“They have put me in the probable category which, I think, is just a step down from, I don\’t know what they call it – the definite category.”

However, she said she didn\’t feel ill and was not concerned.

“I\’m not really concerned for my own health because I feel completely healthy and I\’m over the worst of it.

“The only thing is, I\’m thinking of this whole domino effect and all of the people I have been in contact with, even if it\’s just sitting next to them on a bus.”

Two Aussies confirmed cases

Two Australians in the UK have been confirmed as having swine flu.

A 29-year-old Sydney builder, who moved to the UK from Australia less than a month ago and doesn\’t want to be named, has been told to stay home and avoid contact with others, ABC reports.

He had been in Mexico for a wedding and arrived back in the UK last Sunday.

Earlier, fellow Sydney man Mark Robertson, who is also living in London, was told he had the virus.

The 23-year-old marketing manager from Coogee has spent the past five days behind closed doors in a second-floor flat in Islington, in North London, with two friends who are not infected but have also been quarantined as a precaution, Fairfax reports.

He\’d spent four months trekking through the jungles of Central and South America and two weeks “chilling on the beach” at Puerto Escondido on Mexico\’s west coast.

He\’s been told by doctors it could be six more days before he\’s allowed contact with anyone other than his housemates.

Both men are taking the anti-viral medication Tamiflu and are said to be feeling better.

The results mean two of the three cases diagnosed in London are Australian.

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