MELBOURNE: A school in Melbourne’s east has indefinitely closed just after classes started. The school, which teaches at the Northern Territory Hospital, has been in temporary use since last week when a patient contracted the Coronavirus that kills about a fifth of all people infected with it. One of the 26 children was sent home sick but was later admitted back to the hospital.

The teacher at the school said they believed the schools in Wimmera were closed as the flu. “I think it’s still quite busy and there is a lack of support,” a teacher at the Wimmera Hospital said.

“The flu can spread easily and with the influx of visitors and schoolwork, it will be difficult for the flu season to start as quickly as it should. “It will be up to schools to decide when to reopen and the weather is not what it was last week.”

The deputy health minister Kent Still said other Eastern Victorian schools could be shut for three days. The schools affected by the closure include Fitzroy, Dunkeld, Jesmond, Bing Bong, Harvey, Phillip, James Vale, Clifton Hill, Eagles Nest, Hawthorn and Port Fairy.

The virus is not a bug in itself, but rather one associated with a long chain of exposures to bacteria and viruses, including several known strains of pneumonia-causing SARS.

It continues to cause outbreaks at schools across the country and to two important Victorian museums.

On Monday, the chief of the National Museum of Australia was also admitted to hospital with suspected flu-like symptoms and was believed to be a month or more away from being well enough to visit Melbourne.

The official line from the Department of Health is that flu is rare in the Northern Territory and flu is not easily spread from person to person.

The healthy SARS virus was far more contagious and spread far from human to human and was never found at Melbourne Health. The coronavirus appears to be a different type and both a viral and bacterial form.

Symptoms of SARS can occur in a number of ways, but include coughing, fever, runny nose, feeling sick or coughing up blood. Those receiving a certain amount of Tamiflu – whether prescribed by the doctor or not – can tolerate the next 10 days without symptoms.

In Australia’s peak hospital of the year, Prince of Wales at Alfred Hospital, 300 cases of SARS emerged last year. It then spread quickly among residents as it originated in people in an agricultural region of China, with most of the patients in the next three months catching the virus from staff or other people they knew.

SARS would first strike Australia in late February/early March and would spread among a close group of almost 5,000 people in a clinical trial starting in early May. The 30 full-time staff at the Alfred Library was at one stage sent home with flu and flu quickly spread to some staff members in the following months. The APY Lands department at Uluru, which is believed to be the main organising group for the movement of many sites for the Yirrkala National Park and the Taronga Zoo, was also hit.

SARS was called off in September 2003 because of unusual scientific evidence suggesting the illness was to blame. The body responsible for investigating, or reporting, suspected cases included experts at Melbourne’s World Health Organisation, Australian Army, Federal Services, Australian Federal Police, and working with the Red Cross and the National Arboretum.