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Australian flu deaths pass 100

SYDNEY, Aug 13 – The majority of Australians coming down with influenza have swine flu, authorities said on Thursday, as the number of deaths linked to the virus passed 100.

Health Minister Nicola Roxon said adult trials of an A(H1N1) vaccine were progressing well, but could not confirm that the disease, which had hit 28,987 people and killed 102, was past its forecast August peak.

"It is well and truly the dominant strain of flu that is circulating in Australia this season," said Roxon.

"We’re not clear that the thing has peaked, but we will say that (the number of deaths) has been a very unfortunate, but good, result in terms of trying to keep control of this."

Almost one-third of people presenting to hospital with swine flu were ending up in intensive care, with "particularly concerning" damage to their lungs, said Jim Bishop, Australia’s chief medical officer.

There were 449 people in hospital with the disease, Roxon said, with 109 in intensive care.

A mass immunisation program of at least half Australia’s population is scheduled to begin in October, and Roxon said the results of vaccine trials would not be available for a number of weeks yet.

Pharmaceutical company Biota, whose flagship product is the anti-viral flu drug Relenza said Thursday it would hand over 20 million dollars (16.77 million US) to its shareholders due to overwhelming returns from the drug.

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Since the virus first emerged in Mexico in April, it has spread globally, reaching pandemic level and affecting nearly every country in the world, according to the World Health Organization.

The UN body said Wednesday that its tally of swine flu deaths had risen to 1,154 from the 816 announced on July 27, and the illness was now found in 168 countries and territories.

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