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Swine flu cases soar as new countries affected

Video by Fiona CAMERON

Latest update : 2009-05-17

The World Health Organisation has reported that there are now over 8,000 cases of influenza A (H1N1) worldwide and that the death toll now stands at 72. India, Turkey and Japan have announced their first confirmed infections.


AFP - The number of confirmed swine flu cases has soared again to top 8,000, the World Health Organisation said Saturday as India and Turkey reported their first infections.
  
Japan also confirmed its first three infections among teenage students who had not picked up the virus abroad, and officials voiced fears that it would spread in the country.
  
The number of people killed by the influenza A(H1N1) virus rose to 72, compared with 65 on Friday, with six more in Mexico and one in the United States, the WHO said.
  
Over the past week the number of people infected by the virus has risen sharply, going up by around 1,000 a day since Monday to reach 8,451 on Saturday.
  
The United States, followed by Mexico, where the epidemic began some three weeks ago, have recorded the highest number of cases. Two new countries, Ecuador and Peru, have been added to the WHO's official list.
  
India confirmed its first swine flu case after a 23-year-old man who had flown to Hyderabad from New York tested positive for the virus.
  
He had returned to India on Wednesday and was quarantined on arrival when he was found to have a fever, the health ministry said in a statement.
  
He was being treated at an isolation unit and his current condition was described as "afebrile", meaning he was already free from symptoms of the virus that has caused concern around the world.
  
The Indian health ministry said the patient had changed planes in Dubai and that all passengers who flew on the same plane to India were being contacted.
  
Turkish Health Minister Recep Akdag said that his country's first case of swine flu was detected in an American man who had arrived at Istanbul airport, while news reports said later that his wife was also infected.
  
Akdag said the A(HIN1) virus had been confirmed in blood tests carried out after thermal cameras picked up the fact that the man was running a high fever.
  
The Iraqi-born US national arrived in Turkey on Thursday on a flight from the United States which had made a stopover in Amsterdam and was on his way to Iraq.
  
"He was admitted to hospital in Istanbul and placed in quarantine with the six members of his family. His condition is satisfactory," the minister said.
  
Akdag could not immediately confirm later that the man's wife had also caught the disease, but said it was "quite possible".
  
Japan confirmed its first three domestic infections Saturday and was testing at least 14 other suspected cases in two cities, officials said.
  
Health officials were testing five more teenagers from the same school in the western city of Kobe, while another nine students were considered suspected cases in nearby Osaka, officials said.
  
Prime Minister Taro Aso called on Japanese to stay level-headed and vowed to take steps to prevent a wider outbreak.
  
But former WHO senior official Shigeru Omi, now head of the government's special swine flu task force, warned: "We believe that the infection is beginning to spread in the region."
  
Japan had confirmed its first cases of A(H1N1) contracted overseas on May 9, -- a school teacher and three students who flew to Tokyo from Canada via Detroit -- but immediately quarantined them and other passengers.
  
Another 48 passengers who sat near them on the plane were isolated in a hotel for a week.
  
But despite those measures Health Minister Yoichi Masuzoe said Saturday that the virus had slipped into Japan, being detected in a 17-year-old student.
  
Two of the student's schoolmates, a boy and a girl, were also confirmed as positive for the virus.
  
Authorities in Kobe said they would temporarily close at least 75 schools and kindergartens and cancel festivals and other public events in some districts of the city, where fear of an outbreak was growing rapidly.
  
"It's totally beyond our imagination," said Seiichi Sakurai, of the city's health and welfare bureau. "The virus entered the country undetected. I'm afraid the infection may have already spread further."
  
Sweden also confirmed its third case, detected like the first two in someone who had returned from the United States, authorities said.
  
At the European Conference on Clinical Microbiology and Infectious Diseases (ECCMID) in Helsinki, health experts defended Mexico and the WHO in their handling of swine flu.
  
They said that even though the threat so far had turned out smaller than feared, their measures had placed the world on a stronger footing to combat the virus if it resurges in a more lethal form.
  

Date created : 2009-05-16

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