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Dean of Medicine Receives Swine Flu Funding

Faculty of Health Sciences and Medicine Dean, Professor Chris Del Mar has been awarded an Australian Government grant to review the spread of the contagious swine flu virus.

As a leading Australian academic and researcher, Professor Del Mar is frequently called upon to help develop health protocols and formulate guidelines by national and international bodies.

Professor Del Mar has been invited to World Health Organisation (WHO) summits, on a number of occasions, to contribute to discussions and assist with the development of guidelines – recently on the issue of avian flu and just last month, to tackle the H1N1 virus (swine flu).

He was the only Australian-based medical expert invited to participate in the global health authority’s Geneva talks on the H1N1 strain, which has reached a pandemic level.

Having just returned home, Professor Del Mar has been awarded $83,014 by the Australian Government’s National Health and Medical Research Council to review evidence and update national knowledge on the best methods to stop the person-to-person transmission of swine flu.

Only 37 per cent of submissions for the National Health and Research Medical Council’s (NHRMC) latest funding offering were granted assistance.

Professor Del Mar, who will be supported by international senior researchers, will examine whether anti-virals are as effective in stopping person-to-person spread of the virus compared to simple measures such as quarantine, gloves and masks.

“Physical barriers may be the most effective way of containing influenza outbreaks. We are also interested in the effect of anti-viral medication preventing influenza,’’ said Professor Del Mar.

“There is a level of urgency to this research as the H1N1 strain is new and has the potential to become more virulent and even merge with other influenza types.

“We’ll also examine evidence supporting vaccination against the virus. There is the suggestion that vaccination is only partially effective in reducing person-to-person transmission.’’

Professor Del Mar is a leading expert in managing existing evidence and research. He is also the co-ordinating editor of the Cochrane Acute Respiratory Infection Group.

His research will be used to update existing knowledge on the benefits of anti-virals for healthy adults; the measures to stop the spread of respiratory disease; whether healthcare employees who work with the elderly should be vaccinated; and whether vaccinations are useful for the elderly.

Professor Del Mar will present his findings to an NHRMC symposium in December.

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