WHO Ups Swine Flu Alert

Upping alert levels after the recent swine flu outbreak originating in Medico, the World Health Organization Monday amid reports of more casualties owing to the disease advised capitals across the world to initiate steps to curtail the spread.

The WHO puts the number of dead at 82, most of them in the US and neighboring Mexico, but reports coming in from Mexico City cite health officials as putting the death toll at around 149.

Hundreds of cases are still under examination.

Expressing condolences over the deaths, Mexico’s health secretary, Jose Angel Cordova Villalobos, describes the situation as an emergency, but adds that “it’s not a disaster.”

Meanwhile, troops distributed an estimated 4 million filter masks in the Mexican capital with a population of nearly 20 million while the country’s navy has thrown open its medical facilities to patients infected by the deadly virus.

All schools in the country are closed until May 6, the closure, however, may be extended.

Officials are debating the suspension of other public activities but were unable to reach a consensus on the results such an action would bring to the economy.

Media reports say that the WHO pandemic alert level was hiked after the agency ascertained that the virus is capable of significant human-to-human transmission.

The WHO pandemic alerts are mapped on a scale of six and the current global warning level is pegged at four, the upward move corrects the initial threat perception that the agency mapped as a grade three.

As many a 40 cases have been identified in the US confirms the Center for Disease Control and Prevention. Several new cases are being reported from Texas and Ca;lifornia but the CDC is yet to append its statistics.

The CDC says only one case in the US warranted hospitalization, even as the Center officials said that it was still too early to say how severe the future cases could be.

Canada, Britain and Spain reported some cases. zBut CNN reported that none of the cases were life-threatening, it attributed the inputs to unnamed officials in those countries.

US President Barack Obama says that the swine flu outbreak is a “cause for concern and requires a heightened state of alert,” but is not a “cause for alarm.”

New Delhi has issued an alert to all international airports and ports in India for identifying persons with suspected infection who could be arriving from countries affected, and asked citizens to refrain from non-essential travel to these countries.

It further issued instructions to identify and locate people who arrived in India from Mexico, US, Canada, New Zealand, Spain, France and the United Kingdom.

Medics say swine influenza, or flu, is a contagious respiratory disease that affects pigs. It is caused by a type-A influenza virus. The current strain is a new variation of an H1N1 virus, which is a mix of human and animal versions.

When the flu spreads person-to-person, instead of from animals to humans, it can continue to mutate, making it harder to treat or fight, because people have no natural immunity.

The symptoms are similar to those of the common flu — fever, lethargy, lack of appetite, coughing, runny nose, sore throat, nausea, vomiting and diarrhea. The virus spreads when an infected person coughs or sneezes around another person, and people can become infected by touching something with the flu virus on it and then touching their mouths, noses or eyes.

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