World acts to contain swine flu virus

Around the world, governments are scrambling to stem the spread of a new swine flu virus that has killed at least 103 people in Mexico, Reuters reported. Less serious cases were reported elsewhere among recent travelers to Mexico. The World Health Organisation declared the outbreak – which has components of classic avian, human and swine flu viruses -- a “public health emergency of international concern”.


Many countries have stepped up surveillance at airports and ports, using thermal cameras and sensors to identify people with fever, Reuters said. The fact that the virus has spread quickly between humans has raised fears of the flu pandemic that scientists have said is long overdue. So far, there have been no broad recommendations to limit international travel.

In Mexico, the centre of the outbreak, schools have been closed and public events cancelled in an effort to slow the spread of the virus. Health officials said a majority of the roughly 400 people admitted to hospitals had recovered from the illness, spread by coughing and sneezing. Many people who ventured out in Mexico City wore blue surgical face masks handed out by truckloads of soldiers.


Among recent travellers to Mexico, cases of the flu were reported in the United States (20 cases), Canada (six), Spain (1) and New Zealand (about 12). Cases also were suspected in Britain, France, Italy and Israel.


Health authorities across Asia tried to provide reassurance, saying they had enough stockpiles of anti-flu drugs to handle an outbreak. Guan Yi, a virology professor at the University of Hong Kong who helped to fight severe acute respiratory (SARS) and avian flu in recent years, said a pandemic looked inevitable.


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