British airways cabin crew grounded with 'flu-like symptoms'
From correspondents in Geneva, Switzerland
April 26, 2009 08:06am
THE World Health Organisation has branded the outbreak of a new strain of swine flu "a public health emergency of international concern", following a meeting of its emergency committee.
In a statement, the Geneva-based UN agency said it was recommending that all nations "intensify surveillance for unusual outbreaks of influenza-like illness and severe pneumonia".
Health officials worldwide are scrambling to contain an outbreak of swine flu that has killed as many as 68 people in Mexico, with WHO chief Margaret Chan warning that the virus had "pandemic potential" and it may be too late to contain a sudden outbreak.
The new flu strain - a mixture of swine, human and avian flu viruses - is still poorly understood and the situation is evolving quickly, the World Health Organisation said.
Possible case in London
Health officials today confirmed a British Airways cabin crew staff member was being treated in a London hospital with "flu-like symptoms" after arriving on a flight from Mexico City.
A spokesman for the northwest London hospital where the unnamed man is being treated said he had "flu-like symptoms and is responding well to treatment".
The man has undergone tests, but the results are not expected back until at least Sunday. No other crew members or passengers on the BA242 flight into Heathrow airport were detained.
A British Airways spokesman confirmed the cabin crew member had been on a flight from Mexico City to London's main Heathrow airport which landed on Saturday.
'Containment isn't feasible'
Health authorities in the central US state of Kansas confirmed two cases of swine flu on Saturday, bringing the total number of cases in the United States to at least 10.
The Kansas Department of Health and Environment said two adults were confirmed to be carrying the virus. One of the victims was still ill, while the other had recovered.
"One of the patients had recently traveled to Mexico," a statement from the department said.
"Both persons ... became ill with the same unique (H1N1) strain of swine flu that has been identified in Mexico, California and Texas," the statement read.
Kansas officials said they were interviewing and testing people who came into contact with the pair, who lived at the same residence.
Earlier on Saturday New York officials said eight to nine students at a New York City school were suspected of having swine flu, although test results are still pending.
Tests were ordered after dozens of students from the St Francis preparatory school in Queens showed flu-like symptoms on Thursday, New York Health Commissioner Thomas Frieden said.
Results of tests to confirm the presence of the virus in the United States' largest city will not be known until Sunday, when a statement is expected.
"We are concerned by more widespread transmission," Mr Frieden said.
"The city is very well prepared, the hospitals are prepared, we are even prepared for the worst cases," he added.
US federal authorities have warned they expect to find more cases in the United States.
"With infections in many different communities as we're seeing, we don't think that containment is feasible," said Anne Schuchat of the US Centres for Disease Control and Prevention.
Symptoms of the disease are similar to seasonal flu, with high temperatures accompanying body aches and a sore throat.
Prior to this outbreak, the United States had seen 12 cases of the human form of swine influenza since 2005.
Testing at airports
Tokyo’s Narita Airport began checking temperatures of passengers arriving from Mexico yesterday using thermographic imaging. No signs have been detected on 177 passengers and crew members screened so far.
All pigs brought into Japan will also been screened for any signs of the virus.
In the US airport workers have been told to regularly wash their hands, to use gloves and other protective wear.
It is not yet known whether similar testing or precautionary measures at will be introduced at Australian international airports.
Yesterday the Department of Health and Ageing urged any Australians who had returned from Mexico with flu-like symptoms to seek immediate medical advice.
"We are liaising with the World Health Organisation (WHO) the US Centres for Disease Control and Prevention and other relevant public health experts to obtain more information," a Health Department spokesperson said.
More than 100 dead from swine flu outbreak in Mexico
April 27, 2009 01:11pm
THE death toll in Mexico from an outbreak of a new type of swine flu has risen to 103 people.
Health Minister Jose Angel Cordova said about 400 people were in hospital out of a total of about 1600 suspected cases.
"The most recent reports we have are of 1614 cases, with 103 deaths, and we still have around 400 patients in hospital," he said.
Millions of Mexicans stayed indoors at the weekend or only ventured out wearing surgical masks.
In Mexico City, where the Government stopped public events and shut museums, bars and stadiums closed to try and contain the virus.
|WHO raises swine flu alert level to five|
By staff writers and wires
April 30, 2009 06:18am
* WHO swine flu alert level raised
* First death in US
THE World Health Organisation has raised its swine flu alert level to five - signalling a pandemic is imminent.
WHO chief Margaret Chan said: "This is a signal to governments, ministries of health... to the pharmaceutical industry, that certain actions now should be undertaken with increased urgency."
Phase five, one step short of a full pandemic, is characterised as a "strong signal that a pandemic is imminent and that the time to finalise... the planned mitigation measures is short," according to the WHO's global emergency planning.
It also acknowledges sustained human-to-human spreading in at least two countries in a WHO region, in this case Mexico and the US.
First US death
The development comes after a 23-month-old child died of swine flu in Texas, the first confirmed death in the United States as well as the first outside Mexico, the Centres for Disease Control said.
There are 64 confirmed cases of swine flu in the US.
The toddler was a Mexican who crossed the border for treatment, officials said.
Another death in Los Angeles was also being investigated by US authorities.
President Barack Obama said the swine flu outbreak had created a "serious situation" in the US requiring the "utmost precautions."
"Every American should know that the Federal Government is prepared to do whatever is necessary to control the impact of this virus," he added.
Australia There are no confirmed cases of swine flu in Australia.
According to the latest figures released at 6pm (AEST) yesterday, there are 100 suspected cases in Australia including 51 in New South Wales; 19 in Victoria; 15 in Queensland; nine in South Australia; four in Western Australia; one in Tasmania, and one in the Northern Territory.
Twenty people have died in Mexico from swine flu, and another 132 have "probably" died from the disease. There are a further 33 confirmed cases, and 1614 suspected cases.
There are 13 confirmed cases in Canada; ten in Spain; three in New Zealand; three in Germany; two in the UK; two in Israel; one in the Americas and one in Austria.
Spain's cases include the first involving someone who caught the disease without travelling to Mexico.
Meanwhile, Egypt has ordered the immediate cull of all pigs in the country as a precaution against swine flu - the first such move in the world.