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Swine flu fears in New Zealand, France

Article published on the 2009-04-26 Latest update 2009-04-26 16:05 TU

Mexican mounted policemen patrol Mexico City's historic Zocalo square on Saturday 
(Photo: Reuters)

Mexican mounted policemen patrol Mexico City's historic Zocalo square on Saturday
(Photo: Reuters)

Likely swine flu cases have been reported in New Zealand after a group of students returned from a trip to Mexico. The virus is also feared to have migrated to France.

In New Zealand, Health Minister Tony Ryall said Sunday that ten students who had recently travelled to Mexico were “likely” to have contracted swine fever.

A total of 13 students and one teacher are undergoing tests in quarantine.

In France, health authorities have said there are two “suspected” cases involving people who have recently returned from Mexico.

General health director Didier Houssin said he would not “rule out” that a potentially contagious person could enter France, and said there would not be “a lack of cases” in the coming days due to flights and boat trips coming from Mexico.

In Mexico, Health Minister Jose Angel Cordova said the death toll from swine flu has probably reached 81. This comes after President Felipe Calderon gave his government extraordinary powers to deal with the outbreak.

Cordova said that a total of 1,324 suspected cases were being investigated. Sunday mass was cancelled across the country as part of ongoing measures to deter the public from gathering.

“In terms of combating and fighting this illness, we’re aware of two drugs, including Tamiflu, that is able to respond well to this illness,” Paul Garwood of the WHO told RFI.

“WHO is also recommending other actions take place quickly if suspect cases emerge", he said "including isolating and quickly responding to these cases and detecting cases and seeing that they receive quick and ready and fast medical care”.

Garwood also said “the issue of a pandemic has not yet been confirmed” and that the organisation was “trying to best assess the latest situation at the moment to see how far any of these cases may have spread and to see how large the number of cases may be”.

He described the current situation as “very worrying”.

“We’re very concerned that people are cautious and pay attention to any symptoms like this,” he said, “but also be very aware that not every case of flu will be this new disease, this illness that has emerged. We’re urging everyone to be very very cautious”.

The Mayor of Mexico City, Marcelo Ebrand, said that more than 500 sporting and cultural events had been cancelled for the coming ten days.

In the United States, two more cases were reported, bringing the number of US cases to ten. The two new cases were identified in Kansas and health authorities said one person had recovered while the other was still ill.