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Countries tighten borders

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By DONALD G. MCNEIL JR. in York
  • Published 28.04.09
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New York, April 28: Countries around the world began tightening their border and immigration controls today as the number of confirmed cases of swine flu continued to rise.

The number of deaths believed attributable to swine flu climbed to as many as 152 today — all of them in Mexico — as news agencies reported the number of confirmed cases of infection in the US stood at 50 after further testing at a New York city school.

Other cases have been reported in Ohio, Kansas, Texas and California. In addition, The Associated Press reported that preliminary tests by health officials in New Jersey had identified five “probable” cases — four people who were recently in Mexico and one who had been in California.

Spanish health minister Trinidad Jiménez today said Spain had confirmed a second case of swine flu, in the eastern province of Valencia, but that the patient was recovering well.

Israel’s ministry of health today reported the first case in the country. Smadar Shazo, a health ministry spokeswoman, said the man who contracted the illness, a 26-year-old, had recently returned from Mexico. Shazo said he is in good health now and is likely to be released from hospital tomorrow. About 1,600 people in Mexico are now believed to have swine flu.

The World Health Organisation raised its global pandemic flu alert level today while recommending that borders not be closed nor travel bans imposed. But in a possible precaution to be taken by other nations, Japan said today it would no longer allow Mexican travellers to obtain a visa upon arrival.

Health officers at three Japanese airports also were being deployed today to check passengers before they disembarked from flights coming from Mexico, Canada and the US. Travellers suspected of having the flu would be quarantined and examined further at medical facilities, news agencies reported, citing the Japanese health minister.

At least eight other countries in Asia were checking air passengers arriving from North America, and China was tightening land border checks as well. Hong Kong, Taiwan and Russia were set to quarantine passengers suspected of having the flu.

Yesterday, Indonesia banned all pork products coming from Canada, the US and Mexico, and said it would destroy any pork products imported before the ban. International health experts said the flu cannot be transmitted from pigs or from eating properly handled pork.

Russia and South Korea each reported a suspected case of swine flu today. Tests were ongoing, and South Korea raised its domestic alert level.

Two people in Scotland — the first known victims of the virus in Britain — were said by hospital authorities today to be recovering after contracting the flu while on honeymoon in Cancú, Mexico. But the British authorities warned against non-essential travel and suggested that British citizens in Mexico should consider leaving.

Airlines warning

Global airlines were warned today of steep falls in traffic due to the outbreak of swine flu, and their shares took another hit on fears that events could mirror the 2003 Sars crisis. IATA, the Geneva-based international airlines lobby, said concerns over a possible pandemic from the bug would compound the misery for an industry already facing its worst financial crisis for decades.

New York Times News Service