Mexico shuts down for five days, more swine flu cases reported (Roundup)

May 1st, 2009 - 7:29 pm ICT by IANS  

Barack Obama Mexico City/New Delhi/Toronto, May 1 (IANS) Mexico Friday ordered a five-day shutdown as it struggled to contain swine flu that seems to be spreading rapidly with over 450 confirmed cases being reported world over. Passengers disembarking at international airports were checked for fever - a sign indicating it could be swine flu.
The Mexican government suspended non-essential government business and also cancelled all official events during the May Day weekend in an attempt to prevent further spread of swine flu, which is now being called influenza A (H1N1) by the World Health Organisation (WHO).

President Felipe Calderon urged all Mexicans to stay at home until Tuesday. In Mexico City, all restaurants and bars were ordered closed and otherwise busy streets bore a deserted look.

Mexican authorities late Thursday revised the number of confirmed infections from swine flu to 312 in Mexico alone. At least 160 people have died in Mexico.

The alert for swine flu Thursday was raised to level 5 which is one short of a global pandemic by the WHO.

In India, where no swine flu case has been reported, officials said health screening of passengers coming from affected countries was continuing at most of the international airports.

“The remaining international airports would also start this activity shortly. A total of 17,949 passengers have been screened,” a health official told reporters in New Delhi.

As the flu spread, countries all over the world took steps to contain the disease, which has symptoms similar to influenza with patients complaining of fever, coughing, muscle ache and fatigue.

The confirmed cases globally tallied at least 454 as of Friday morning, the European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control (ECDC) said.

The cases in Europe were in Britain, Germany, Spain, Austria, Switzerland, and the Netherlands.

The new type of swine flu has jumped from one human to another within Germany for the first time, officials said Friday, with a nurse in Bavaria apparently catching the virus from a patient who had been in Mexico, DPA news agency reported.

In the US, the number of confirmed human swine flu cases rose to 109. The country has the second highest number of swine flu cases after Mexico and it reported the first swine flu death outside Mexico.

Nearly 300 schools across the US were closed down in view of the swine flu threat.

An official who took part in US President Barack Obama’s recent trip to Mexico is believed to have caught swine flu and passed it on to his family.

The department of energy employee, “came down with flu-like symptoms”, the Telegraph reported Thursday citing White House spokesman Robert Gibbs. “He is listed as suspected of having type-A H1N1.”

In Canada, with 15 new cases of swine flu taking the nation’s total to 34, authorities have said they will start an awareness campaign Friday.

Of the 15 new cases reported Thursday, five were in British Columbia province, four each in Alberta and Nova Scotia provinces and one each in Ontario and Quebec provinces.

In Brussels, the European Union (EU) member states said they will share their stocks of anti-viral medicines if one of their number is hard hit by the new swine flu virus.

But they rejected a French proposal to ban all flights from the EU to Mexico saying that this would not be effective.

After the WHO Wednesday raised the global alert to five, governments around the world tried to strengthen their defences and readiness against the disease - and reassure the public.

Iraq announced a $30-million fund to combat swine flu, although so far it has only been confirmed in Israel in the Middle East.

Australia unveiled thermal scanners at its airports, to target incoming passengers who may be suffering from the virus.

China, which has yet to report any cases of swine flu, said it was starting a mass public awareness campaign in schools.

Britain also launched an ad campaign, called “Catch It, Bin It, Kill It!”, telling people to wash hands, and cover their mouths when sneezing or coughing.

Five people in Britain, including a girl of 12, are known to have the virus, but all are responding well to treatment.

Singapore raised it domestic alert from yellow to orange, whilst an emergency Association of South East Asian (ASEAN) countries is planned for next week.

The Philippines said it was reactivating its emergency plan from 2003, when the avian flu and SARS viruses struck.

New Zealand now has 13 confirmed cases of swine flu and 104 suspected cases, whilst Peru confirmed its first case of swine flu Thursday - on an Argentinian woman who stopped over in Mexico for just a few hours on a flight from New York to Argentina.

In South Africa, one suspected case of swine flu has been detected and the health department is closely monitoring the case, Bua News reported.

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