04/30/2009, 00.00
ASIA
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Swine flu, alert level raised. Deaths and human to human infections.

First death in the USA; first human to human infection in Spain. The WHO speaks of the risk of a global epidemic and asks aid for the production of vaccines. In Egypt the Health Minister decides to eliminate all pig farms.
Geneva (AsiaNews/Agencies) – The UN's World Health Organization has raised the alert over swine flu to level five (out of six), showing how close it is to a full-blown global epidemic, or pandemic. The decision came after news of the first deaths showing human to human transmission of the H1N1 virus. Yesterday in Texas a 23 month old Mexican baby died from the virus; the first death outside Mexico, considered the epicentre of the disease; in Spain the first case of swine flu to be found in a person who has not been in Mexico for a long period has been confirmed.

Margaret Chan, WHO Director, urged all countries to activate their pandemic plans, including “heightened surveillance and infection-control measures”. She added: "It really is the whole of humanity that is under threat in a pandemic." But she also said the world was "better prepared for an influenza pandemic than at any time in history"”.

So far the countries where the virus has manifested itself are: Mexico (159 suspected deaths, 7 of them confirmed to have been caused by the virus); USA (1 death; 91 cases of infection); Canada (13 cases); Spain (10 cases); Great Britain (5 cases); Germany (3); New Zealand (3); Israel (2); Austria (1).

Schools have been closed in Mexico and the population has been invited to stay indoors and only go out if strictly necessary.  Fearing infection even Ghana has joined the countries now banning all pork imports.  In Egypt the Health Minister has decided to eliminate all pig farms across the nation starting today.

Chan, the WHO director, stressed that there was no danger from eating properly-cooked pork.She advised hygiene measures such as hand-washing to prevent infection and said it was important "to maintain a level of calm". But she also warned that current WHO antiviral stocks were too low and said the organisation needed more donations from companies and governments.

 

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