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Britain Bids To Quell Swine Flu Fears

by VR Sreeraman on July 20, 2009 at 6:20 PM
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 Britain Bids To Quell Swine Flu Fears

Chinese authorities quarantined dozens more British students on Monday as the government in London tried to allay mounting fears over the swine flu crisis and the dangers facing pregnant women.

The worldwide death toll from the pandemic gathered pace with Ecuador announcing seven new fatalities and Australia reporting three new swine flu-related deaths.


Alarm bells rang louder in the Middle East as authorities in Israel warned a quarter of the population could contract A(H1N1), only hours after Egypt reported its first death.

And Russia, which had restricted the number of cases to single figures, warned the virus was spreading to all parts of Europe's largest country.

With China desperate to contain the virus, a total of 85 British students and teachers have been quarantined in a hotel in Beijing over swine flu fears while a further eight are being treated in hospital after displaying symptoms.

The new tally marks an increase over the 52 originally quarantined last week for a seven-day period at a Beijing hotel after they arrived for a study tour.

"We can confirm that a group of over 85 British schoolchildren and teachers are being held in quarantine in a hotel in Beijing," the British embassy in Beijing said in a statement that also indicated the figure could grow further.

China has responded aggressively to swine flu with temperature checks for arriving international passengers, and has imposed one-week quarantines on dozens of foreigners.

There have been around 1,500 positive cases of the virus in China, the health ministry has said, but no deaths have been reported.

The virus first broke out in Mexico and the vast majority of the deaths have been recorded in the Americas.

US authorities said last week that 263 people had died there of the virus and deaths are now being reported in every corner of the globe.

Speaking ahead of a statement on the pandemic to parliament, British Health Secretary Andy Burnham said people should go about their daily lives, but take precautions such as washing their hands regularly and said pregnant women should consider steering clear of crowds.

Over the weekend there had been reported suggestions that women should consider not getting pregnant, but the minister denied this.

"There isn't conflicting advice. The advice has been clear all along that women who are pregnant should take extra precautions as they would anyway," he told GMTV.

"They should really follow the advice about hand hygiene, they should consider about avoiding crowded places."

Britain is already the worst-hit country in Europe, with estimates of 55,000 new cases of the A(H1N1) virus last week.

And England's chief medical officer Liam Donaldson has said that in a worst case scenario, around a third of Britain's population could be infected and 65,000 killed.

A similarly grim prediction came Monday from Israel where around 890 people have so far contracted A(H1N1).

"We estimate that about a quarter of the Israeli population could be affected by this flu epidemic in the coming months," Itamar Groto, the head of the ministry's public health department, told army radio.

But he added: "In 99.99 percent of cases, the sick will be up and about within two or three days."

Israel's neighbour Egypt reported its first death linked to swine flu after a 25-year-old woman coming back from a pilgrimage to the Muslim holy places in Saudi Arabia died in hospital over the weekend.

Russia has so far only confirmed nine cases but its public health chief warned that the virus was fanning out across the country.

"I think that by the end of the day we will have reported around at least five or six more (people) whom we have confirmed as sick" with the A(H1N1) virus, Gennady Onishchenko said.

"We have registered an increase, a sharp increase in the number of individuals whom we... certify as sick," he said at a news conference.

"The virus is now not just Moscow's property but also that of the regions."

Source: AFP

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