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Swine Flu Spreads To Germany Amid Mexican Lockdown

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Author Topic: Swine Flu Spreads To Germany Amid Mexican Lockdown  (Read 37 times)
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« on: April 29, 2009, 06:51:00 am »

                                   Swine flu spreads to Germany amid Mexican lockdown

Marc Burleigh
April 29, 2009

The global swine flu outbreak spread further on Wednesday as Germany became the latest country to confirm cases on its soil while Mexico desperately tried to keep the lid on the virus.

With fears rising of easy transmission between people, authorities in Mexico City shut down bars, cafes, gyms, cinemas and tourist sites, including the world-famous Aztec and Mayan pyramids.

But as the Mexican government revised down its confirmed number of swine flu dead to seven from 20 after more rigorous testing was introduced, officials said more than 100 people were still suspected to have died from the virus and more than 1,600 were thought to be infected in the outbreak's epicentre.

And only hours after Costa Rica joined the list of affected countries, Germany became the eighth when it confirmed that it was dealing with three definite cases.

Officials at Berlin's Robert Koch Institute, responsible for disease control and prevention, said a 22-year-old woman was in hospital in Hamburg and that a 37-year-old woman and a man in his 30s were in separate hospitals in Bavaria.

While Mexico remained the only country to have recorded deaths from the virus, other nations announced their infection tallies had increased.

Authorities in Israel, New Zealand and Spain increased their confirmed cases of infection with the virus, believed to be a previously unseen amalgam of different flu viruses.

"We are dealing with a new strain of influenza," said Richard Besser, acting head of the US Centers for Disease Control (CDC).

The World Health Organization (WHO) has raised its warning level to Phase 4 on a 1-6 scale, which indicates the illness is being passed from person to person, although officials said much about the outbreak was still unknown.

"We don't have information on how it acts, how it transmits," said Gregory Hartl of the WHO, which was to convene experts from affected countries later Wednesday to review what is known about the illness.

Experts say the current virus -- a version of swine flu identified as A/H1N1 -- cannot be caught from eating meat from pigs, and instead are recommending simple hygiene procedures like washing hands.

Some have suggested that those who died in Mexico were treated too late or with insufficient drugs, or that perhaps the strain mutated into something less virulent when it left the country.

In addition to the health concern, there have also been worries that the outbreak will badly hurt the airline and travel industries, which have already been suffering because of the global economic slowdown.

Major European tour agencies and US cruise lines announced they were suspending trips to Mexico, while Argentina said it was barring flights from the country until next week.

Among those confirmed to have contracted the virus are a couple from Scotland who recently returned from honeymoon in Mexico's Cancun resort and a second set of Cancun honeymooners were quarantined in their own Edinburgh home on Wednesday as they awaited the results of swine flu tests.

WHO assistant director general Keiji Fukuda said it was "critical" to identify travellers from Mexico who might be infected with swine flu.

"It helps us to monitor the spread of the virus worldwide and how it is moving," Fukuda said.

US President Barack Obama is seeking 1.5 billion dollars from Congress to boost US efforts to contain the flu's spread, the White House said.

California declared a state of emergency and said they had detected a death in Los Angeles that might have resulted from the virus.

South Korean officials said the country had nine suspected cases of swine flu infection, but that four of those had turned out negative.

China meanwhile angrily rejected foreign media reports pointing to the country as the source of a deadly swine flu outbreak, saying they were baseless and aimed at tarnishing the nation's image.
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