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theSun

| TUESDAY APRIL 28 2009

9

Facts about swine flu
What kind of flu is it?
The virus is an influenza A virus, carrying the designation H1N1 and is spreading from person to person. It contains DNA from avian, swine and human viruses, including elements from European and Asian swine viruses, according to the US Center for Disease Control and Prevention.

Swine flu spreads to Europe, death toll rises
MEXICO CITY: The toll from the Mexican swine flu outbreak escalated yesterday as the virus reached Europe and sent shivers through stock markets, despite appeals for calm from US President Barack Obama. The probable death toll in Mexico rose to 149 with officials having confirmed 20 people had died from the disease, Health Minister Jose Angel Cordova said. “There are 149 who have died that we’re investigating to allow us to confirm” that they meet the strict criteria that defines swine flu, Cordova said. The number of suspected cases has passed 1,600. Europe’s first confirmed case was reported in Spain, with dozens more suspected cases being checked in seven EU states and conflicting advice about travel to the Americas from other parts of the world. Although the United States government has declared a public health emergency, Obama urged people to stay calm. The swine flu outbreak “requires a heightened state of alert, but it is not a cause for alarm”, he told a gathering of the National Academy of Sciences. Obama said the US emergency order was “a precautionary tool to ensure that we have the resources we need at our disposal to respond quickly and effectively”. Mexican President Felipe Calderon also called for calm, but confirmed cases outside Mexico now number at least 20 in the US and six in Canada as well as the Spanish victim. Countries around the world were testing people travelling from the infected areas who showed signs of possible swine flu. The European Union called an emergency meeting of health ministers and advised against non-essential travel to areas where the deadly virus has surfaced. Spain is watching 20 suspected cases and Britain 17 while there were five suspicious cases in Sweden, Denmark and Switzerland, plus four in France and one in Italy. Nine people each in New Zealand and Colombia, plus one each in Brazil and Peru were under observation with flu symptoms, while in the Middle East, a 26year-old Israeli was also hospitalised in Netanya. In Geneva, the World Health Organisation said it was not calling for travel restrictions. The UN health agency has warned that the swine flu strain – apparently born out of a mix of human and avian flu viruses that infected pigs – could become a pandemic and called for all nations to “intensify surveillance”. Mexico City’s streets were deserted after its 20 million residents were ordered to avoid crowds and even kissing, while a football game on Sunday at the 105,000-seat Aztec stadium was played behind closed doors. Residents donned face masks and stocked up on food and water in anticipation of a long lockdown as Calderon urged Mexicans to “move fast, but to maintain calm and cooperate with the authorities”. Two of the seven people apparently stricken with the flu on Sunday “arrived (at hospital) in a very bad state” and died shortly afterwards, Mexico City mayor Marcelo Ebrard said. Richard Besser, acting head of the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, said that the US outbreak so far consisted of eight confirmed cases in New York City, seven in California, two in Texas, two in Kansas and one in Ohio. The US government anBERNAMAPIX

How it is spread

• Coughing • Sneezing • Kissing • Touching infected objects • Touching nose, mouth and/or
eyes with infected hands

Higher risk individuals

• Age of 65 years or older • Chronic health problems
(such as asthma, diabetes, heart disease) • Pregnant women • Young children

Symptoms
• Fever • Muscle aches • Lethargy • Coughing • Headache • Sore throat • Runny nose • Nausea • Vomiting • Diarrhoea

Complications
• Pneumonia • Bronchitis • Sinus infections • Ear infections

Treatment

• Oseltamivir (Tamiflu) or
zanamivir (Relenza)

Prevention
• Covering nose and mouth with a tissue upon coughing and sneezing. • Avoiding contact with ill persons. • Avoiding the urge to touch nose, mouth and eyes in general. • Staying home form work and/or school upon onset and for the duration of symptoms. • Assuring adequate and thorough handwashing and use of alcohol based hand cleansers.

Asia takes preventive measures

» In New Zealand, authorities
A nurse checks a passenger from a Los AngelesTaipeiMalaysia flight for possible swine flu infection upon her arrival at the KL International Airport in Sepang yesterday.

years ago. » Japan said it would fast-track efforts to find a vaccine, while one company pulled back the families of staff based in Mexico, travel agencies scrapped package tours and drug stores reported a brisk trade in face masks. » In Vietnam, where 56 people have died from bird flu since 2003, airport screening was focused on passengers arriving. » Thailand, which recorded 17 fatal human cases of bird flu between 2004 and the last outbreak in August 2006, also started screening passengers arriving at its main international airport in Bangkok. » In Australia, hospital emergency wards, doctors and border control staff were given guidelines on how to spot the virus. All planes arriving from the Americas would be required to report on the health status of passengers before receiving permission to land. Anyone with flu-like symptoms will be quarantined. – AFP

nounced it will release a quarter of the national stockpile of 50 million doses of the Tamiflu and Relenza anti-viral drugs. Swiss pharmaceutical group Roche said it was ready to send out more stocks of Tamiflu, some 220 million doses of which are in the hands of governments worldwide. British pharmaceutical giant GlaxoSmithKline also said it was “urgently” investigating how to boost production of its antiviral drug Relenza, as a race to develop a direct vaccine for H1N1 strain gathered pace. After China, Thailand, Indonesia, Russia and Ukraine banned Mexican and US pork imports, US officials insisted it was virtually impossible to catch swine flu from eating meat as long as it is properly cooked. Authorities across the Asia-Pacific region, which has in recent years been at the forefront of the SARS and bird flu epidemics, stepped up checks at airports and urged the public to be on guard for symptoms. – AFP

were tracking down hundreds of air passengers who may be at risk. They say they are well prepared to deal with any new flu outbreak thanks to a plan drawn up during the 2003 bird fl u scare, with stocks of antiflu medication in place.

In Hongkong, health officials warned that passengers arriving from affected areas and showing flu-like symptoms would be quarantined. Along with Singapore, Hongkong advised against all non-essential travel to worst-hit Mexico. China warned international travellers to be alert for any sign of infection. Beijing also banned all pork imports from Mexico and parts of the US, despite health officials saying the current outbreak was being spread by human-to-human contact. » The most common measure being put in place was the use of thermal scanners, which have been a common feature in many Asian airports since the Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome epidemic six

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Avoid travel to swine flu-hit countries: Tiong Lai
by Karen Arukesamy
newsdesk@thesundaily.com

KUALA LUMPUR: Health Minister Datuk Seri Liow Tiong Lai has advised against travel to Mexico, the United States and Canada following an outbreak of swine flu in these countries. “Avoid travel to these countries if possible, although we have not issued any restrictions,” he told a press conference yesterday after presenting the Joint Commission International accreditation award to the Prince Court Medical Centre. “So far the WHO says restrictions are unecessary in terms of health, travel or trade,” Liow said. He said public and private medical practitioners had been alerted to immediately report to the nearest district health office, any patient with influenza-like illness or severe symptoms of pneumonia who had travelled to any affected country

after April 17. “The ministry is also researching swine flu vaccinations for pig farmers. We have the seasonal influenza vaccine, but we must further study if it can be given to pig farmers because we are not sure of the strain. “We will also vaccinate frontliner agencies like the police, nurses and doctors if the need arises,” Liow said, reassuring the public that the government was well prepared to prevent swine flu infections in Malaysia. “Malaysia had successfully prevented the spread of Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome previously, and we have the National Influenza Pandemic Preparedness Plan to check the spread of any influenza-like illness. “It has come to a stage where the disease is spread from human to human, thereby raising the risk.” He also said pork in the country is safe for consumption because the

disease is not transmitted through pork, but is airborne through live transmission. Liow said the ministry would meet with all relevant agencies such as the foreign and agriculture and agro-based industry ministries and the Veterinary Department to discuss proactive and preventive measures. These include screening travellers at all entry points to Malaysia. Later at the KL International Airport, Liow conducted an on-thespot inspection of a flight from Los Angeles. He said any traveller testing positive for swine flu would be admitted for treatment at the Sungai Buloh Hospital. “The (faulty) thermal monitor at the airport will also be fixed soon,” he said. Check for latest updates at www.moh. gov.my or call 03-8881 0200/300.

Govt urged to freeze pork imports
by Kong See Hoh
newsdesk@thesundaily.com

THE Federation of Livestock Farmers Associations of Malaysia has urged the government to temporarily freeze pork imports in view of the outbreak of swine flu in Mexico that the World Health Organisation warns could become a pandemic. The federation’s deputy president Tung Hong Chai told Oriental Daily News on Sunday that imposing a freeze on pork imports was a way to stop the highly contagious swine flu virus from being brought into the country. He pointed out that all pigs reared in the country are given immunisation jabs against diseases such as foot-andmouth and rabies. Sick pigs are also quarantined to reduce the chances of an outbreak, he said.

Commenting on the outbreak of swine flu in Mexico, Tung said local pig farmers should pay more attention to sanitation on their farms to ensure that their animals are healthy. Pig farming in the country is concentrated in Penang, Perak, Selangor, Malacca and Negri Sembilan. Meanwhile, the federation’s chairman Lee Ah Fatt said Malaysia does not import pork from Mexico and consumers should feel safe consuming the meat. He said that although Mexico was on the other side of the world, the federation was taking a serious view of the swine flu outbreak and was keeping close tabs on the latest developments. Lee also said pig farms in the country should not face any problem as they are well equipped to maintain a high level of sanitation, Nanyang Siang Pau reported.