Germany hit as swine flu spreads

Nations around the world count economic cost following outbreak of new flu strain.

    Governments worldwide have warned people to stay away from Mexico [Reuters] 

    Fears of a pandemic have led to flight cancellations, tourism industry losses and bans on pork imports around the world.

    "On top of a synchronised global financial and economic crisis, an outbreak of swine fever is the last thing we need just now," Neil MacKinnon, a chief economist at London-based ECU Group, said.

    Mexico City has estimated the outbreak is costing companies in the Mexican capital at least $57m a day and contributing to a 36 per cent loss in tourism revenue.

    'Economic crisis'

    Its finance ministry has established a $450m fund to fight the virus, after health authorities said up to 159 people may have died from the new strain of H1N1 virus.

    In depth

     Q&A: What is swine flu?
     Video: Mexico's swine flu response
     Video: Countries race to contain swine flu
     Asia ramps up swine flu checks
     Fears over economic fallout mount
     Gallery: Global fears of flu pandemic
     Follow Al Jazeera's Mexico correspondent on Twitter

    Barack Obama, the US president, has asked Congress for $1.5bn to respond to swine flu, over fears that the virus could further impact the global financial crisis.

    The US centre for disease control and prevention on Tuesday raised the number of cases in the US to 64. One other case was reported in the US state of Indiana.

    Several international companies have prevented or limited their employees travelling to their operations in Mexico, including Honda, Xerox, Dupont and Adidas.

    Ten countries have banned pork imports from some US states, including China - the second biggest buyer of US pork, despite assurances that the contagious disease cannot be transmitted in meat.

    Dave Warner, from the US pork producers' council, said: "I think the economics right now is being driven by fear of what could happen, rather that what really is happening."

    Epidemic threat

    The Mexican cabinet said it will suspend all flights from Mexico City to prevent the threat of the epidemic.

    Swine flu: At a glance

    Seven confirmed in Mexico and 159 more suspected. One death in the United States

    Countries with confirmed cases: Mexico, the US, Canada, New Zealand, Spain, Germany, Israel and Britain

    Countries with suspected cases: Australia, Brazil, France, Chile, Denmark, Switzerland, Austria, Colombia, Germany, Norway, South Korea, Guatemala

    Safety measures:
     Schools closed in Mexico, surgical masks handed out, public events cancelled
     Airports screening of travellers from Mexico for flu symptoms
     Stocks of influenza medication increased in Europe, North America and the Middle East
     Cuba and Argentina suspend flights from Mexico
     Several countries including the US and EU issue travel warnings for Mexico. EU also warns against travel to the US
     Several countries restrict or ban pork imports from Mexico and/or the US, including China, Indonesia, Lebanon, Russia, Thailand, and Ukraine

    Cuba has banned all flights to its neighbour and Argentina announced Tuesday a five-day ban on flights arriving from Mexico.

    Royal Caribbean Cruises suspended stops at Mexican ports indefinitely and Norwegian Cruise Line said its schedules will not include any other ports in Mexico until the end of September 2009.

    Health ministers from the Gulf countries are to hold an emergency meeting on Saturday to discuss the threat of a swine flu pandemic to the region.

    The World Health Organization (WHO) was set to hold a "scientific review" of the outbreak to collect what was known about how the disease spreads, how it affects human health and how it can be treated.

    Jose Cordova, Mexico's health minister, said that 2,498 suspected cases of swine flu had been reported in the country.

    Franc Contreras, Al Jazeera's correspondent in Mexico City, said: "People are feeling confusion because of different flu figures coming from the federal government on the one hand, and the city government on the other.

    "And if you listen to government figures, they say the number of cases are begining to level off.

    "But health officials across Mexico will tell you they're swamped and that their own teams have begun to get sick now."

    Paul Garwood, a WHO spokesman in Geneva, told Al Jazeera that while there was no vaccine for the new virus, it could be treated with drugs.

    "It's new, it's causing severe illnesses in Mexico and people should be aware of this.

    "At the same time we know that this illness can be treated with drugs that are on the market and that symptons are mild and they are recovering." 


    SOURCE: Al Jazeera and agencies


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