A DEADLY strain of flu that combines elements of swine, avian and human viruses could spread around the world after emerging simultaneously in Mexico and the United States, experts warned yesterday.
Margaret Chan, director-general of the World Health Organisation, declared the disease a “public health event of international concern” after an emergency meeting in Geneva last night. She said the disease had “pandemic potential” and urged all countries to keep a close watch for outbreaks of influenza-like illness.
A British Airways cabin crew member was taken to hospital with flu-like symptoms yesterday afternoon after falling ill on a flight from Mexico City to Heathrow. The Health Protection Agency said it was keeping a close eye on the situation.
Britons are not being advised to avoid travelling to affected areas, although anyone visiting those destinations or who has recently returned should consult a doctor if they experience flu-like symptoms.
In Mexico up to 81 people have died from pneumonia caused by the swine-flu virus and more than 1,000 suspected cases have been reported.
Mexican soldiers distributed surgical masks and the authorities warned people to avoid shaking hands and kissing.
The mayor of Mexico City cancelled all public events, and schools, museums, cinemas and libraries were closed. Health workers were posted at airports and at stations to keep anyone showing symptoms off public transport.