Swine flu cases now 1,893, Canada decodes its genetic make-up (Roundup)

May 7th, 2009 - 7:12 pm ICT by IANS  

Mexico City/Toronto, May 7 (IANS) The number of laboratory confirmed cases of influenza A (H1N1), better known as swine flu, rose to 1,893 in 23 countries Thursday as Canada became the first country in the world to decode the genetic make-up of the virus.
The number of people who died from swine flu climbed to 42 in Mexico, where the disease originated.

The country has begun resuming its normal activities, EFE news agency reported.

After a five-day shutdown to contain the spread of the virus, Mexico City, the normally bustling metropolis of some 20 million people, has begun returning to normal.

The number of infections has climbed to 1,070, health secretary Jose Angel Cordova said Wednesday.

He said the majority of the deaths occurred before April 29, and so the authorities feel that the epidemic is tending to abate.

The municipal health secretary, Armando Ahued, told a press conference that for the sixth consecutive day there was no swine flu death in the capital, where 60 people remain hospitalised with symptoms related to influenza A (H1N1) virus.

The swine flu outbreak was not yet completely under control in the country despite a fall in the number of confirmed cases, President Felipe Calderon has said.

Calderon said that the fall in infections did not mean that the virus has disappeared.

Worldwide the number of laboratory confirmed swine flu cases rose to 1,893 in 23 countries, said the World Health Organisation.

In Europe, Spain remained hardest hit with 73 cases and Britain had 28 infections. Germany reported nine cases. New Zealand had five cases and South Korea had two.

As countries around the globe tried to contain the spread of swine flu, Canadian scientists became the first in the world Wednesday to decode the genetic make-up of the influenza A (H1N1) virus.

Top leaders and MPs openly ate pork sandwiches in parliament to dispel fears about pork contamination.

Health Minister Leona Aglukkaq and her top health official David Butler-Jones claimed that scientists at the National Microbiology Laboratory have successfully decoded the genetic make-up of the flu virus from samples taken locally and in Mexico.

“The world’s knowledge of the A H1N1 flu virus has taken a significant step forward thanks to the excellent work done at Canada’s National Microbiology Laboratory,” the minister said.

“This is an important achievement for our scientists as it marks the first successful sequencing of virus samples from different countries,” said Butler-Jones.

“Our researchers should be commended for completing this important work in less than a week. This is one of the laboratory’s finest hours,” the top health official claimed.

Frank Plummer, who heads the National Microbiology Laboratory, said: “This takes us a big step forward in understanding how this virus works. Our preliminary analysis does not indicate a significant difference between the virus in Mexico and the virus in Canada.”

Amid the successful genetic decoding of the virus, Canadians were thrown into confusion when a WHO official Wednesday cautioned that the meat of pigs infected with the H1N1 flu may be deadly.

Jorgen Schlundt, WHO director of department of food safety and food-borne diseases, reportedly warned that consuming meat from sick and dead pigs infected with swine flu could have the virus.

However, Canadian Agriculture Minister Gerry Ritz, opposition leader Michael Ignatieff and MPs countered the WHO claim by eating pork sandwiches in parliament.

“Canadian pork is safe. There is no danger. Bottom line: Canadian pork is safe,” claimed the agriculture minister.

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