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Sunday 27th May 2018

World reacts to swine flu outbreak

27th April 2009

Authorities in California have confirmed two cases of swine flu, amid an investigation by local, state and federal level health officials.


Governments around the world have reacted to the spread of swine flu cases, which are believed to have originated in Mexico.

The European Commission has called an urgent meeting of health ministers as fears grew of a swine flu pandemic after a virus killed 103 people in Mexico and spread to the United States.

China has banned imports of live pigs and pork products from Mexico and Texas, California and Kansas.

In California, experts were still looking for the source of the disease after a 9-year-old girl in Imperial County and a 10-year-old boy in San Diego County were identified as having had the virus.

A swine flu virus that has killed 103 people in Mexico and spread to North America has also been confirmed to have reached Europe, with Spanish health officials confirming a case in a man recently returned from Mexico.

Officials are interviewing and testing family members and all people who had contact with the two children, neither of whom needed to go to hospital, and both of whom have recovered.

It is unclear whether the virus, which is rare in humans, though often causes respiratory problems in pigs, was transmitted from another person, as neither patient had had any contact with pigs.

Typically, the H1N1 swine flu virus, similar to seasonal flu viruses, causes a mild illness, including fever, lethargy, cough and a lack of appetite.

San Diego and Imperial counties are on the border with Mexico, and US health officials have been in contact with their counterparts in Mexico, Canada, and the World Health Organisation (WHO), asking them to test anyone with similar symptoms and to send the samples in to the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

The cases came to official attention because they were seen in clinics carrying out routine surveillance for influenza infections.

CDC's Lyn Finelli told neither child, a 10-year-old boy and a 9-year-old girl, had especially severe symptoms, although the girl had had a fever of 104 degrees, and that there was no need for the public to take any action.

Officials were not assuming widespread infections, although the specific strain of swine flu had not been seen before, according to CDC.

Finelli said 12 known cases of infection with swine flu had been reported, but 11 of them had followed known contact with pigs.

Influenza viruses still kill between 250,000 and 500,000 people in an average year around the world, and experts say a global pandemic strain, for which the majority of people lack immunity, is likely to arise. Previous pandemic fears have centred around H5N1 avian influenza, or bird flu.

Bird flu currently only rarely infects people but has killed 257 out of 420 infected in 15 countries since 2003. But the CDC said it did not believe that the swine flu cases represented the beginning of a flu pandemic.

Documented cases of swine flu being transmitted from one human to another are rare, with the most serious outbreak in recent years in New Jersey in 1976, when a soldier died, sparking a nationwide immunisation programme.

The 1976 New Jersey virus appeared similar to the one linked to the 1918-19 pandemic in which tens of millions of people died worldwide.

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