Swine Flu Continues Its March Around the World Even As Harry Potter Celeb Falls Victim

by Tanya Thomas on Jul 6 2009 10:08 AM

Dealing with the Cruciatius curse might be a piece of cake, but swine flu? No way! Latest reports have confirmed that Harry Potter star Rupert Grint has fallen prey to a mild bout of the flu that's going around a lot these days. His publicist confirmed the news on Saturday.

Three days before "Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince" premieres in London, actor Rupert Grint, who plays Ron Weasley in the series, was revealed to have taken several days off filming the next instalment, "Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows.

"He has now recovered and is looking forward to joining his fellow cast members at the junket and premieres this week and will then return to filming directly afterwards," his publicist said in a statement.

However, new deaths and fears of a carve-up on vaccine access have underlined the gravity of the pandemic.

And in a sign of growing concern in the Islamic world over the potential of the annual hajj in November to exacerbate the flu crisis, Tunisia decided to suspend lesser pilgrimages to Mecca known as omra.

Tunisian religious affairs minister Boubaker El Akhzouri said officials should "reflect on whether or not to postpone the hajj" this year after taking what he called the "necessary decision" to suspend omra trips.

Meanwhile global health bosses warned that international politicking could prevent lives being saved in poor countries.

Universal access to a swine flu vaccine remains a "critical question," World Health Organization (WHO) assistant director-general Keiji Fukuda said during a summit on the virus in the Mexican beach resort town of Cancun.

Fukuda said guaranteeing the vaccine is distributed to underdeveloped nations will require "political goodwill."

There are fears that most of the stock that will be produced has already been reserved by the United States and European countries.

Mexican Health Minister Jose Angel Cordova said that money should not be "the only factor taken into consideration."

The death toll has rises slowly but surely since the first outbreak of swine flu came to public attention in April.

But infections have recently multiplied and on Saturday Canada announced four new swine flu deaths, bringing its toll to 31, while Thailand raised its total to seven with another two fatalities.

New Zealand also recorded its first deaths linked to swine flu, with authorities reporting Saturday that three people who died in the past week had the virus.

It was "strongly probable" that the A(H1N1) virus, which causes swine flu, was a major factor in the deaths of two men, aged 19 and 42, although one had underlying medical conditions, Chief Coroner Neil MacLean said.

The third death involved a young girl with underlying medical conditions who died Saturday in Wellington Hospital. The regional health board said she had earlier tested positive for swine flu.

So far, the virus has infected almost 90,000 people in 125 countries and territories worldwide and caused more than 380 deaths, according to the latest figures released by the WHO.

Macedonia and Syria on Saturday became the latest countries to record their first infected cases.

The weekend developments followed a chilling assessment from British Health Secretary Andy Burnham who said that there could be 100,000 infections per day just across England, Northern Ireland, Scotland and Wales by the end of August.

Four people have died in Britain of swine flu and the country has Europe's highest number of reported cases with nearly 7,500.

In Brazil, which has so far confirmed 756 cases, an entire troupe of actors and entertainers were placed in quarantine after one of them also contracted the virus.