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    Governments alarmed as swine flu epidemic kills 103 in Mexico

    Hurriyet Daily News with wires
    27.04.2009 - 13:23 | Son Güncelleme: 27.04.2009 - 16:55

    ISTANBUL - Governments around the world acted to stem a possible flu pandemic on Monday, as a virus that has killed 103 people in Mexico and spread to North America was confirmed to have reached Europe.

    While the virus has so far killed no one outside Mexico, the fact that it has proved able to spread quickly between humans has raised fears that the world may finally be facing the flu pandemic that scientists say is long overdue.

     

    Spain became the first country in Europe to confirm a case of swine flu when a man who returned from a trip to Mexico last week was found to have the virus.

     

    But his condition, like that of 20 cases identified in the United States and six in Canada, was not serious. A New Zealand teacher and around a dozen students who recently returned from Mexico were also being treated as likely mild swine flu case, Reuters reported.

     

    Many countries have stepped up surveillance at airports and ports, using thermal cameras and sensors to identify people with fever, and the World Health Organization has opened its 24-hour "war room" command center.

     

    Turkey also announced that it would implement the same measures that were put into place at Istanbul’s Ataturk International Airport during the bird flu epidemic. No further announcement was made about whether the same precautions would be taken at other airports in the country.

    The European Union's health chief urged citizens to avoid non-essential travel to areas affected by swine flu, and the European Commission called an urgent meeting of health ministers.

     

    BORDER SCREENING IN US

    The United States declared a public health emergency on Sunday and started to launch border screening for swine flu exposure.

     

    Richard Vesser, acting head of the U.S. Centers for Disease Control, says U.S. authorities are starting to undertake passive screening at its borders. He restated the Obama administration’s call on Sunday for people to stay calm and reported that U.S. border officials would be asking people about fever and illness.

     

    President Barack Obama was to address the health crisis later Monday.

     

    MEXICO SLOWS TO A HALT

    Japan's Cabinet held a special meeting and said it would prioritize the production of a new vaccine, although this process usually takes months.

      

    In Mexico, the center of the swine flu outbreak, life has slowed dramatically in cities as schools have been closed and public events called off to slow the spread of the virus.

      

    Many in Mexico City spent the weekend hunkered at home or wore blue surgical face masks handed out by truckloads of soldiers to venture out onto strangely hushed streets. The city government considered halting public transport.

      

    Health Minister Jose Angel Cordova said on Sunday that the flu had killed 103 people in Mexico, and about 400 people had been admitted hospital. But he noted that a majority of infected patients had recovered.

     

    ECONOMY AFFECTED BADLY

    Oil prices fell sharply below $50 on Monday, in line with stock markets, on fears that an escalating swine flu crisis could further dampen economic activity and therefore energy demand, AFP reported citing dealers.

     

    Brent North Sea crude for delivery in June plunged $2.31 to $49.36 a barrel in London trade, while New York's main futures contract, light sweet crude for June, dived $2.59 to $48.96 a barrel.

     

    "A major pandemic would have strong repercussions on (oil) demand," AFP quoted Olivier Jakob, analyst at energy analysts Petromatrix, as saying.

     

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