Swine Influenza Creates Unrest on a Global Level

GLOBAL - Swine influenza, which initially began in Mexico, has now taken its toll on a global scale. Asian countries such as South Korea and Indonesia are taking precautionary measures to prevent the spread of the deadly H1N1 influenza virus, which has claimed close to 150 lives in Mexico alone. Scotland, all the way in Europe, seems to be affected as well.
calendar icon 28 April 2009
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South Korea Reports 'Probable' Swine Flu Case

A South Korean woman tested positive for swine flu in additional examinations after traveling to Mexico, making her a "probable" case - the country's first - authorities said today.

Final tests are still necessary to confirm whether the woman, 51, has swine flu, the Korea Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said in a statement.

The woman has remained quarantined since returning from a trip to Mexico on Sunday. She contacted authorities upon her return, complaining of high fever, cough and a runny nose, officials said.

All 315 others on the same flight from Los Angeles were being tested but none have turned up positive, officials said.

Two others with possible swine flu symptoms tested negative for swine flu, which has killed more than 150 people in Mexico.

Drop in Pork Prices Amid Growing Concerns

Pork prices in South Korea fell this week amid growing concerns over swine flu spread, the South Korean government said today.

According to the Ministry for Food, Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries, the price for a 110-kg pig fell to 352,000 won ($260) on Monday, down 19,000 won ($14) from last weekend.

The Korea Swine Association also confirmed that the outbreak had an influence on pork prices, saying 1 kg of bone-in meat dropped to 4,663 won ($3.4), down 260 won ($0.2) from late last week.

"Prices have been falling steadily since the middle of the month, but the recent drop can be attributed to wholesalers in the industry bracing for a possible drop in demand," an official was quoted as saying by local media.

According to meat industry insiders, if strengthened quarantine measures are being taken around the world and South Korea succeed in limiting new cases of human infections, pork prices may quickly make an upturn.

Indonesia Suspends Pork Imports and Boosts Airport Scanners

Meanwhile in Indonesia, pork imports have been suspended and body temperature scanners increased at airports yesterday as senior officials tried to calm fears that swine flu had spread to the country.

Senior ministers met to discuss the threat of swine flu after it killed more than 100 people in Mexico and spread rapidly to other countries, sparking fears of a pandemic, according to the country's news agency, Borneo Bulletin.

"Indonesia has decided to stop all imports of live pigs and pork temporarily as a precautionary measure to prevent the spread of the virus here," said the government's pandemic preparedness chief, Bayu Krisnamurthi.

Transport ministry spokesman Bambang Ervan said additional measures would be taken at airports to screen passengers for signs of the flu.

"In response to the swine flu, we are installing thermoscanners at 10 airports to detect ill travellers entering Indonesia," he said.

Until now Indonesia had operated such scanners only at the airport on the resort island of Bali, as a precaution against SARS and bird flu.

Passengers arriving from the Americas would be asked to fill out special health cards stating details of their medical histories and countries they had recently visited, Mr Ervan said.

Indonesia is the country worst hit by avian influenza, or bird flu, with 115 confirmed human deaths since 2003.

Health Minister Siti Fadilah Supari, whose refusal to share bird flu viral samples with international vaccine researchers has stirred controversy, said Indonesians should not panic as swine flu had not affected tropical countries.

"It takes place during autumn and winter. Our country is always hot. Don't panic," she told Detikcom news agency.

Coordinating Minister for People's Welfare Aburizal Bakrie said the government had learned lessons from its fight against bird flu which would serve it well in the event of a swine flu outbreak.

"Our ability to manage bird flu epidemics can also be used to anticipate the spread of other diseases such as swine flu," he was quoted as saying by the state-run Antara news agency.

Officials had no figures for imports of pigs and pork products to Indonesia but said they were "not significant." Ninety per cent of Indonesia's 234 million people are Muslims who generally do not eat pork.

The country's Agricultural Ministry is also supervising pig farms to control the animals' health and trade following cases of swine flu in the United States of America and Mexico, the private television MetroTV quoted an official as saying on Tuesday.

"We supervise pig farms nationwide, in Bali, West Kalimantan and Lombok among others. We also focus on Batam of Sumatra province, the gateway of pork import from Singapore," said the ministry's Director General of Animal Husbandry Tjeppy Sujana.

He added that the ministry would supervise pork circulation in markets.

Meanwhile, Health Minister Siti Fadilah Supari said that people should not underestimate current flu symptoms.

Far Away in Scotland...

Two suspected cases of swine flu in Scotland have been confirmed as positive and both individuals are now recovering at Monklands Hospital in Lanarkshire.

In addition, a further seven people from the contact group of the infected people are displaying mild symptoms and are undergoing tests.

Deputy First Minister and Health Secretary Nicola Sturgeon said, "I can confirm that tests have demonstrated conclusively that the two Scottish cases of suspected swine flu are positive.

"However, I am pleased to say both patients are recovering well. In addition, there are currently a further seven people among the 22 who have been in contact with the two infected people, who have now developed mild symptoms and are being appropriately cared for.

"I would reiterate that the threat to the public remains low and that the precautionary actions we have taken over the last two days have been important in allowing us to respond appropriately and give us the best prospect of disrupting the spread of the virus.

"However, this is a developing situation which we continue to monitor very closely, in conjunction with our colleagues in other parts of the UK and the World Health Organisation.

"We remain very encouraged by the fact that, outside Mexico, everyone who has contracted swine flu has experienced mild symptoms only."

The Scottish Government is in close contact with Scottish NHS boards who are well prepared to respond to any further suspected cases.

As part of its pandemic flu preparations, the Scottish Government has significant stockpiles of two antiviral drugs - Tamiflu and Relenza - both of which have been effective in treating cases of the H1N1 strain of swine flu in other countries.

The Scottish Government has encouraged people to take simple infection control precautions, such as hand washing and covering their mouth when they cough or sneeze.

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