The swine flu infection has now arrived in the Middle East with Israel reporting its first case yesterday. An Israeli man who recently got back from Mexico has contracted the potentially deadly virus, officials have confirmed.
"The virus was confirmed," said Matilda Schwartz, spokeswoman for the Laniado hospital in the coastal city of Netanya, where the man had been under observation since Sunday morning.
"He is in quarantine, he is feeling well," she said, referring to 26-year-old Tomer Vajim who had returned from a trip to Mexico on Friday.
"It is now official that the swine flu has arrived in Israel," said army radio in announcing the results of the tests performed on Vajim.
It marks the first confirmed case in the Middle East of a flu that the World Health Organisation has warned has "pandemic" potential.
Vajim was hospitalised over the weekend complaining of flu symptoms.
Another 49-year-old Israeli who had also recently been to Mexico is currently under quarantine in a hospital in the centre of the country while undergoing tests to determine whether he has contracted the flu.
"It is an epidemic that is affecting the entire world, there is no reason that Israel would escape it," said Ran Balitzer, a doctor who has been put in charge of dealing with the swine flu issue at the Israeli health ministry.
He said ministry officials were holding consultations to determine whether to introduce any new prevention measures following the confirmed flu case.
Because pork is banned under Jewish law, Israel's Deputy Health Minister Yakov Litzman of the ultra-religious United Torah Judaism party has said the virus should be called "Mexican flu" in Israel, although his call appeared to go unheeded.
The multi-strain virus has swept the world in recent days, with at least 17 countries far beyond worst-hit Mexico reporting confirmed or suspected infections.
Mexico, the epicentre of the outbreak, said the number of confirmed and suspected deaths from the flu had risen to 152, while some 1,600 people were thought to be infected there.
The number of confirmed cases in the United States more than doubled to 44 and Britain and Spain both said they had registered patients sick with swine flu, the first cases in Europe.
In Asia, South Korea said it was investigating one suspected infection, while New Zealand, which is already treating 10 people who are expected to prove positive, reported a further 56 suspected cases.
In Australia, five people, including children, had tested positive for a type A virus -- to which swine flu belongs -- in the state of New South Wales, with a further 65 possible cases spread across the rest of the country.
The virus is believed to be a mix of a human flu virus and an avian flu that first came from swine.
The strain has aroused particular concern because it appears to be transmitted from human to human and in Mexico has afflicted healthy young adults rather than infants or the elderly.
Influenza caused three epidemics during the 20th century, the worst being the Spanish flu between 1918 and 1919 that killed at least 40 million people, according to the WHO.