Worldwide swine flu cases top 1,000 (Roundup)

May 4th, 2009 - 6:57 pm ICT by IANS  

Mexico City/Geneva, May 4 (IANS) Influenza A (H1N1), better known as swine flu, continued to spread across the world, particularly in the US and Europe, with the number of confirmed cases in 20 countries topping 1,000 Monday.
Swine flu has killed 22 people in Mexico, where there have been a total of 590 confirmed cases, Mexican Health Minister Jose Angel Cordova Villalobos said.

The last victim of the new virus died Wednesday, Villalobos said late Sunday. Fifteen of the dead were women and seven were men, he said.

Mexico is the epicentre of the global flu outbreak, which is caused by a new H1N1 strain of the virus that has genetic elements that come from three species - pigs, birds and human beings.

Restaurants in Mexico City are currently banned from serving food on their premises. Mass events have been cancelled across the country, and football games, for example, were being played before empty stands.

The number of confirmed cases of swine flu worldwide topped 1,000 Monday, according to tallies released by the European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control (ECDC) in Stockholm.

In Europe, the number stood at 79 while there were 20 further probable cases including 10 in France, eight in Britain and one case in Portugal and Sweden each.

In all, 12 countries in Europe have confirmed or probable cases. Most of the confirmed cases, 44, were reported from Spain, the ECDC tally indicated.

Outside Europe, there were 929 confirmed cases of influenza A(H1N1) virus infections as of early Monday, the ECDC said.

In the US, the swine flu virus spread to 30 states Sunday with a total of 226 confirmed cases, the Centres for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) said.

Health officials cautioned that the rise in cases had more to do with increased and better reporting of test results than a rapid spread of the virus.

While Mexico claimed the virus was “declining”, the World Health Organization (WHO) in Geneva said the virus could return and the world might even witness a surge in the spring.

The WHO rejected an assertion by the CDC that the mutated swine flu virus A/H1N1 did not appear to have the same deadly power as the Spanish influenza virus of 1918 that killed more than 25 million people.

WHO director Michael Ryan 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.

The WHO website in its bulletin said that 20 countries have officially reported 985 cases of influenza A (H1N1) infection.

“Mexico has reported 590 laboratory confirmed human cases of infection, including 25 deaths. The higher number of cases from Mexico reflects ongoing testing of previously collected specimens. The US has reported 226 laboratory confirmed human cases, including one death,” the WHO said.

The countries that have reported laboratory confirmed cases with no deaths include: Austria (1), Canada (85), China’s Hong Kong Special Administrative Region (1), Costa Rica (1), Colombia (1), Denmark (1), El Salvador (2), France (2), Germany (8), Ireland (1), Israel (3), Italy (1), the Netherlands (1), New Zealand (4), South Korea (1), Spain (40), Switzerland (1) and Britain (15).

As the flu spread, countries all over the world took steps to contain the disease.

The Hong Kong government Monday faced growing pressure to release 300 guests and staff quarantined for seven days in a hotel where East Asia’s first swine flu patient stayed.

Tensions rose at Hong KOng’s Metropark Hotel, sealed off by armed police and medics in protective clothing since Friday when a 25-year-old Mexican guest was confirmed as having swine flu.

One quarantined guest, Indian businessman Kevin Ireland, 45, told the DPA by telephone that the lock-in appeared pointless as delivery people were allowed in and out of the hotel.

“I ordered a pizza and handed my money to the policeman with gloves on, who gave it to the pizza delivery man who didn’t have gloves on,” he said. “What kind of quarantine is that?”

“The same thing happened with 20 other people who placed outside orders for batteries, cigarettes, beer and takeaway dinners.

“Nobody seems to understand what kind of quarantine this is. We are all hanging around together, there is no restriction from going from room to room. We are all congregating in the lobby for meals.”

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