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Residents of Australia's largest city, Sydney, have been urged to wear protective face masks to shield against airborne influenza.

The recommendation from the Australian Medical Association (AMA) comes as the state of New South Wales suffers its worst flu outbreak since 2003, the Sydney Daily Telegraph reports.

AMA New South Wales vice president Brian Morton told the paper: 'It is looming as one of our worst seasons, certainly the notification for influenza-type illness has increased and is earlier than normal.'

The use of this form of personal protection equipment (PPE) to combat flu highlights the possible role face masks may play in Britain and elsewhere should there be a global flu pandemic.

Experts are presently concerned that such a pandemic may arise if a mutant form of the H5N1 strain of bird flu emerges.

In other PPE news, the worldwide market for such products has been projected to exceed $30 billion (£15 billion) in volume by 2010, PR Web recently reported.

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