Swine flu spreads, first human-to-pig case reported (Roundup)

May 3rd, 2009 - 6:31 pm ICT by IANS  

Facebook Mexico City/Geneva/Toronto, May 3 (IANS) The first human-to-pig case of influenza A (H1N1) transfer, better known as swine flu, was reported in Canada as the worldwide tally of confirmed cases rose to 780 Sunday.
Mexican heath officials raised the number of confirmed swine-flu deaths in the country to 19 after examining 1,303 cases, Health Minister Jose Angel Cordova has said.

Cordova said 14 women and five men had died from the H1N1 flu strain, and most of the victims were aged between 20 and 40 years.

The announcement Saturday followed earlier warnings that Mexico’s death toll could rise as more tests are carried out on the 159 people who have died recently in Mexico, where swine flu originated, of various forms of the flu.

The number of confirmed cases of swine flu in the European Union rose to 49, spread over about half a dozen countries, EU health officials reported Sunday.

The EU’s centre for disease control (ECDC) in Stockholm said ten new confirmed cases have been reported in Germany, Spain, Ireland and Italy, in addition to nine new suspected cases in Britain and Portugal.

The EU swine flu cases are among the worldwide confirmed tally of 780, DPA news agency reported.

With swine flu cases rising sharply to 85 in Canada, authorities Saturday confirmed the first case where pigs contracted the H1N1 virus from a man who had just returned from Mexico.

The Canadian Food Inspection Agency said this could be first case of human-to-animal transmission of the virus during the current global outbreak. The case was detected on a swine farm in Alberta province where a Canadian, who returned from Mexico April 12, was working.

“This person was exhibiting flu-like symptoms following the return, and may have exposed swine on the farm to an influenza virus,” said Brian Evans of the Canadian Food Agency.

Evans said though the traveller has recovered, the farm pigs have been found to be infected with the H1N1 virus that is spreading around the world.

The health official added: “We have determined that the virus H1N1, found in these pigs, is the virus which is being tracked in the human population.”

In neighbouring US, the confirmed cases of people infected with swine flu have increased to 160, the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has said.

The only person that has so far died of the H1N1 flu virus in the US is a Mexican toddler who was visiting relatives in Texas, Anne Schuchat, the CDC’s interim deputy director for science and public health programmes, said Saturday.

Most US cases of the new flu strain have been mild with New York having the highest tally of 50 which has remained the same for several days and about one-third of the confirmed cases are people who had been to Mexico, according to the official. That suggests a substantial portion of the US cases may have picked up the infection in Mexico.

Thirteen patients of the confirmed cases were hospitalised, Schuchat said.

Although there are reports that the outbreak in Mexico may be stabilising, “we can’t afford to let down our vigilance”, she said.

“We have information that this novel virus continues to spread with increasing cases and increasing states affected. And we are acting, as President (Barack) Obama said this morning (Saturday), actively and aggressively,” she told a news conference.

“I will not be surprised if we find additional cases or additional deaths,” she said.

The White House has launched pages in social network like Facebook, MySpace and Twitter to support the ongoing efforts to update the public as quickly and effectively as possible, he added.

On Saturday, the World Health Organisation in Geneva rejected an assertion by the US disease control authority that the mutated swine flu virus influenza A (H1N1) did not appear to have the same deadly power as the Spanish flu virus of 1918-19 which killed over 25 million people.

WHO director Michael Ryan, in countering this assertion, said that “these viruses are very unpredictable” and that it could still turn out that the swine flu could develop into a pandemic.

Ryan said that the WHO still had to assume that alarm level 6 - that of a pandemic - would be reached. At the moment, WHO has an alert status of 5.

WHO had earlier not ruled out that it may yet up the level once more, to the highest-possible phase 6, which would mean that a global pandemic was underway.

While phase 6 would mean that the new outbreak had taken on global dimensions, it would not indicate how severe the disease had become.

Ireland announced its first laboratory-confirmed case of swine flu late Saturday.

Tony Holohan, chief medical officer of the Department of Health and Children, said the case was first reported Thursday.

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

At least 113 people, who were on the same flight with a Mexican national later diagnosed with swine flu in Hong Kong, have been quarantined in China to test whether they are infected with the H1N1 virus, Xinhua news agency reported.

However, none of them has displayed any flu symptoms so far, according to the officials.

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