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'Critical' to identify infected travellers as virus hits Mideast: WHO

Video by Luke BROWN

Text by FRANCE 24 (with wires)

Latest update : 2009-04-29

The World Health Organisation calls it "critical" to identify infected travellers to stem the spread of swine flu as the first cases are confirmed in the Middle East. Several countries have warned against non-essential travel and banned pork imports.

A senior World Health Organisation official said Tuesday it was "critical" to identify travellers from Mexico who might be infected with swine flu in order to monitor the spread of the virus.

 

"These are critical to identify, because it helps us to monitor the spread of the virus worldwide and how it is moving," WHO assistant director general Keiji Fukuda told journalists.

 

At least 152 people have died in Mexico from confirmed or suspected instances of the virus.

 

Confirmed cases have so far occurred in Britain, Canada, Israel, New Zealand, Spain and the United States, most of them a result of recent travel to Mexico.

 

Australia, Austria, Chile, China Colombia, Denmark, France, Germany, Hong Kong, Indonesia and Ireland have all reported suspected cases.

 

Two Israeli men who recently returned from Mexico have been confirmed to have contracted swine flu in the first such cases in Israel and the Middle East, local media reported on Tuesday.

 

Israeli health ministry officials held emergency consultations to determine whether any new measures were needed to protect against the flu that the World Health Organisation has warned has "pandemic" potential.

 

"It is now official that the swine flu has arrived in Israel," army radio said.

 

The authorities initially said that 26-year-old Tomer Vajim who had returned from a trip to Mexico four days before, had contracted the potentially deadly virus.

 

"The virus was confirmed," said Matilda Schwartz, spokeswoman for the Laniado hospital in the coastal city of Netanya, where Vajim had been undergoing tests since Sunday.

 

"He is in quarantine, he is feeling well," she said.

 

A few hours later, army radio reported that a second man who had been quarantined on his return from Mexico was found to have contracted the virus. The 49-year-old had been admitted to a hospital near Tel Aviv after complaining of flu symptoms.

 

Defence Minister Ehud Barak said in a statement that his ministry had formed a "crisis cell" that would be charged with dealing with the outbreak should the disease spread inside Israel.

 

Mideast countries on alert

 

The multi-strain virus has swept the world in recent days and is believed to be a mix of a human flu virus and an avian flu that first came from swine.

  

In Israel's neighbour Egypt, parliament called for the nation's 250,000 pigs to be killed immediately because of fears over the spread of swine flu, the state news agency MENA reported.

  

The United Arab Emirates, home to the Middle East's largest airport in Dubai, said it was putting all airports under strict surveillance to spot anyone arriving who might have swine flu.

 

Neighbouring Gulf country Bahrain has decided to suspend any imports of live pigs or any pork products.

 

Import bans on pork products

 

Ecuador on Tuesday decided to halt pork imports from Mexico and the United States due to the swine flu, after countries like China and Russia took similar measures.

 

Several Balkan countries have also moved to ban pork imports. Imports bans have been imposed by Croatia, Serbia, Montenegro and Macedonia.

 

Croatia’s Health Minister Darko Milinovic said that after the World Health Organization raised its flu pandemic alert level from three to four on Monday, all patients with suspicious symptoms would be isolated while undergoing diagnostic tests.

 

Similar measures have been taken in Serbia, with its agriculture ministry banning pork or pork products imports "until further notice."

 

Mexico closes restaurants as a precaution

 

Officials in Mexico City on Tuesday ordered all eateries closed to the public as efforts stepped up to fight a deadly swine flu outbreak that has likely killed more than 150 people nationwide.

 

Restaurants, cafes, diners and other food outlets are prohibited from serving sit-down customers under the measure, though take-away service could be provided, city officials said.
 

Date created : 2009-04-28

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