U.S. officials say traffic across the southern border will not be interrupted by the swine flu outbreak, despite rising numbers of Mexican-origin infections in the U.S. and a warning that the number of infections could reach international pandemic levels.
The World Health Organization (WHO) late Monday raised the flu pandemic alert level from three to four, signaling that the outbreak is not just sporadic cases or appearing in small clusters, but poses a risk of reaching pandemic proportions. The group also said huge knowledge gaps remained about the virus’s origins and spread.
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New York Times
The number of deaths believed attributable to swine flu climbed to as many as 152 on Tuesday — all of them in Mexico — as news agencies reported the number of confirmed cases of infection in the United States stood at 50 after further testing at a New York City school.
Other cases have been reported in Ohio, Kansas, Texas and California. In addition, The Associated Press reported that preliminary tests by health officials in New Jersey had identified five “probable” cases — four people who were recently in Mexico and one who had been in California.
About 1,600 people in Mexico are now believed to have swine flu.
The World Health Organization raised its global pandemic flu alert level on Monday while recommending that borders not be closed nor travel bans imposed. But in a possible precaution to be taken by other nations, Japan said Tuesday it would no longer allow Mexican travelers to obtain a visa upon arrival.
Health officers at three Japanese airports also were being deployed Tuesday to check passengers before they disembarked from flights coming from Mexico, Canada and the United States. Travelers suspected of having the flu would be quarantined and examined further at medical facilities, news agencies reported, citing the Japanese health minister.
At least eight other countries in Asia were checking air passengers arriving from North America, and China was tightening land border checks as well. Hong Kong, Taiwan and Russia were set to quarantine passengers suspected of having the flu.
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