SHARING FUN, AND ’FLU: The huge crowd at Splendour in the Grass provided the prefect breeding ground for swine flu, but health officials are playing down the health risks associated with such large gatherings.
SHARING FUN, AND ’FLU: The huge crowd at Splendour in the Grass provided the prefect breeding ground for swine flu, but health officials are playing down the health risks associated with such large gatherings. David Nielsen

Splendour crowd 'bred swine flu'

FOR Kate Smith, of Sydney, Splendour in the Grass was a chance to catch up with her old school friends and see a few good bands.

However, soon after Ms Smith, 20, and her four friends returned home they were diagnosed with swine flu.

“We got it at Splendour,” said Ms Smith, who is now in quarantine in her Sydney flat.

“We hadn’t all got together for a couple of months, so we must have got it there.”

They are not the only ones to have contracted the potentially deadly virus at the festival.

Although the NSW Health Department no longer keeps a tally of those diagnosed by their GPs, The Northern Star has been told of many cases directly linked to the festival.

As a different crowd flocks to the Byron Writers Festival later this week, there are concerns it too will become a breeding ground for the flu strain.

However, North Coast Area Health Service director of public health Paul Corben yesterday played down any threat.

He said despite early fears based on the number of flu-related deaths in Mexico, the virus had turned out to be mild and, in most cases, no threat to lives.

“The basic hygiene message remains – wash your hands and if you get sick stay at home,” he said.

 “If people do develop symptoms they should see their GP.”

During previous pandemics, such as the 1948 influenza outbreak, shopping centres were closed and even funerals were banned.

Mr Corben said health officials had considered stopping mass gatherings, like sport, as swine flu emerged, but decided ‘protection’ was more effective than ‘containment’.

A total of 16 Northern Rivers residents, and 846 across NSW, have so far been hospitalised with swine flu.

However, Mr Corben said the threat seemed to be easing in Sydney, and predicted the same would occur on the Northern Rivers, which was a couple of weeks behind Sydney.

“The population density on the North Coast has helped to reduce its spread,” he said.
North Coast Area Health and Splendour organisers worked together during the two-day event to minimise the spread of the virus.

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