Germany confirmed its first cases of a feared new flu strain on Wednesday, the eighth country to detect it, but reported deaths remained confined to Mexico nearly a week after the threat of a pandemic emerged.
Mexico says the H1N1 virus has killed up to 159 people there. Cases have also been confirmed in the United States, Canada, New Zealand, Israel, Britain, Spain and now Germany.
Germany’s infectious diseases agency found swine flu in a man and a woman in their late 30s in Bavaria, and a 22-year-old woman in Hamburg at the other end of the country, all of whom had recently returned from Mexico.
The World Health Organization said it may raise its pandemic alert level to phase five — the second highest — if it was confirmed that infected people in at least two countries were spreading the new disease to other people in a sustained way.
But with no deaths outside Mexico so far, Keiji Fukuda, acting WHO assistant director for health security and environment, said it could be a “very mild pandemic,” adding, however, that influenza “moves in ways we cannot predict.”
Stock markets in Asia and Europe rose on Wednesday, partly on optimism the world could be spared a major deadly pandemic.
Considerable uncertainty remained.