Mexico toll stabilizes as swine flu spreads
April 29, 2009, 6:22pm
MEXICO CITY (AP) – The toll from the swine flu epidemic appears to be stabilizing in Mexico, the health secretary said late Tuesday, with only seven more suspected deaths. But an outbreak of the virus at a New York school showed it is capable of repeated jumps between humans – meaning it can keep spreading around the world.
The new virus is suspected in 159 deaths and 2,498 illnesses across Mexico, said Health Secretary Jose Cordova, who called the death toll “more or less stable” even as hospitals are swamped with people who think they have swine flu. And he said only 1,311 suspected swine flu patients remain hospitalized, a sign that treatment works for people who get medical care quickly.
The positive news came even as the first two countries announced travel bans on flights from Mexico, the center of the epidemic, and as confirmed cases were reported for the first time as far away as New Zealand and Israel, joining the United States, Canada, Britain and Spain.
The United States stepped up surveillance at its borders and warned Americans to avoid non-essential travel to Mexico. Canada, Israel and France issued similar travel advisories.
And Cuba became the first country to impose an outright ban on travel to the epicenter of the epidemic.
Argentina soon followed with its own ban, and ordered 60,000 visitors who arrived from Canada, Mexico and the US in the past 20 days to contact the Health Ministry.
Meanwhile, Mexico was eliminating reasons for tourists to visit. On Tuesday, the pyramids and all other archaeological sites were put off limits nationwide and restaurants in the capital were closed for all but take-out food in an aggressive bid to stop gatherings where the virus can spread.
Outside Mexico, confirmed cases were reported for the first time as far away as New Zealand and Israel, joining the United States, Canada, Britain and Spain. The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said the U.S. has 66 confirmed cases in five states, with 45 in New York, one in Ohio, one in Indiana, two in Kansas, six in Texas and 11 in California.
“Border controls do not work. Travel restrictions do not work,” said WHO spokesman Gregory Hartl, recalling the SARS epidemic earlier in the decade that killed 774 people, mostly in Asia, and slowed the global economy.
U.S. officials stressed there is no need for panic, noting that flu outbreaks are quite common every year. The CDC estimates about 36,000 people in the U.S. alone died of flu-related causes each year, on average, in the 1990s.
Meanwhile, the United States called on trade partners Tuesday to not erect barriers over the global swine flu outbreak, saying it was a human epidemic, not an animal health or food safety issue.
Grappling with the fast-spreading virus that has sprung up trade barriers worldwide, US officials insisted that scientific evidence, not fear, should guide government actions.
The US wants to “send a message to all our trading partners: we are open for business. It is perfectly safe to consume pork products from America,” Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack said at a news conference.
Vilsack said the US Department of Agriculture (USDA) was closely working with other agencies to monitor for new cases of H1N1, the new strain of human swine virus that has killed more than 150 people in Mexico and gone global.
The US on Tuesday named nine countries that have erected trade barriers to US pork and swine imports amid the swine flu epidemic, including China and Russia.
In New York, at least five people were in U.S. hospitals with swine flu as the number of cases nationwide rose to 66 on Tuesday and a federal health official warned that deaths were likely.
Most of the nation’s confirmed cases were in New York City, where the health commissioner said “many hundreds” of schoolchildren were ill with what was “most likely swine flu.” The city announced 45 confirmed cases, all affiliated with a Catholic high school.
Richard Besser, acting director of the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, noted that although ordinary human flu accounts for 36,000 deaths every year, he was concerned by this strain.
Sentenced, one of my favorite metal bands along with people around the globe now mourns for the lost of their lead guitarist Miika Tenkula, probably one of the most talented metal guitarist in Finland. I don’t want to alter any stories to respect the passing away of Mr. Tenkula so here is the story.
Miika Tenkula, former lead guitarist and main songwriter of the acclaimed Finnish band SENTENCED, was found dead at his home earlier today (Thursday, February 19). He was 35 years old.
Nalle Österman (GANDALF, LULLACRY, CHAOSBREED) tells BLABBERMOUTH.NET, “It’s true, confirmed personally by [former SENTENCED] drummer Vesa Ranta.
“The fact remains that Miika had a serious drinking problem for many years which escalated after SENTENCED was buried. They don’t call it King Alcohol for nothing…
“The metal scene in Finland mourns now for one of the most talented metal guitarists to ever emerge from [the country].”
The official cause of Miika’s death has not yet been released.