Asia is better prepared than other regions to handle an outbreak of swine flu due to its experience dealing with epidemics such as SARS, the World Health Organisation said.
The spread of Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS) in 2003 led to countries around the region screening air passengers, closing down schools, stockpiling anti-flu drugs and quarantining thousands of suspected cases.
AdvertisementThe epidemic, which claimed some 800 lives, gave Asia "a badly needed lesson for surveillance and the right infection control mechanisms," Peter Cordingley, spokesman for the WHO's Western Pacific office in Manila, told AFP.
"Asia is better prepared and in a better position than others," as a result, he said.
Cordingley said the H1N1 virus, which is suspected to have killed 103 people in Mexico, was "relatively benign" based on initial studies, but he warned against complacency, saying the virus could mutate into a more deadly strain.
"It could develop certain properties and could become a bigger problem," he said. "We don't know which way it might go and which way it may mutate. This is a new virus," he said.
"Every country in the world is at risk," he said, noting Asia in particular sends a large number of migrant workers abroad, including to the United States, where 20 cases have been confirmed in five states.
The WHO at the weekend described the virus as a "public health emergency of international concern" and called on all countries to intensify surveillance for unusual outbreaks of flu-like diseases and severe pneumonia.
Cordingley reiterated that there was no evidence to suggest that eating pork was a source of infection, but that the virus was being spread by human to human contact.
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