Swine flu toll on upswing

MEXICO CITY: The worldwide death toll for swine flu was creeping up to triple digits today with new deaths in North America, while a clutch of new cases emerged in Europe, Asia and Latin America.

According to the latest United Nations’ World Health Organisation tally, 12,515 people have been infected with A(H1N1) across 46 countries, including 91 deaths. The figure represents a rise of 493 cases on the previous WHO total and included five new deaths in Mexico, the epicentre of the outbreak, but did not include the newest three Mexico deaths, one more fatality in Canada and two more deaths in the United States, bringing the global toll to 97.

Mexico’s Health Ministry today confirmed a rise in the country’s flu deaths to 83, with more than 4,458 confirmed infections from the virus.

US media also reported that a woman in Chicago with underlying medical conditions died from the virus, following confirmation from health officials on Sunday that a New York woman in her fifties had died from the disease.

The US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has confirmed the virus in 6,764 cases. A 44-year-old Toronto man today became the second person in Canada to die of swine flu, as the country’s latest figures showed 805 cases nationwide.

Honduras, Iceland and Kuwait meanwhile reported infections to the WHO for the first time, with Honduras and Iceland posting a case each and Kuwait reporting 18 cases in US soldiers who have since left the country.

In Hong Kong officials confirmed two new cases of swine flu in young children who arrived on a flight from New York on Sunday, raising the city’s total number of cases to nine.

Also stemming from a New York infection, the Czech Republic registered its first swine flu case involving an adult male from Prague who recently came back from the northeastern US metropolis.

Worldwide, fears grew while attempts to contain the disease continued.

Japanese shops ran out of face masks amid the outbreak as local authorities and bloggers offered tips on making homemade masks from kitchen paper, coffee filters and even sanitary pads. The western city of Tatsuno even gives handy hints on its official website on fashioning a basic anti-flu mask from gauze, tissue and a pair of rubber bands.

Latin America saw most of the new swine flu cases today, as Ecuador’s infected tally rose to 24 over the weekend after officials reported 10 on Friday, and Peru raised its confirmed swine flu cases by two to 27.

Ecuador’s health ministry warned on its website that the virus “displays a great capacity for transmission between humans, and it spreads rapidly between countries, meaning nations need to work together to mitigate the epidemic’s impact.” Mexico’s confirmed infections tally of 4,458 on Monday soared from 4,094 before the weekend, according to official statistics.

In China authorities confirmed two more cases of the swine flu in a 19-year-old man in the eastern Zhejiang province and in a 30-year-old Shanghai man, bringing the total number in the world’s most populous nation to 11.

The new cases emerged after 18 US soldiers who tested positive for swine flu were removed Sunday from a military base in Kuwait, where authorities said there was no sign swine flu had spread to the local population. Arab countries in the Gulf region, which have millions of foreign workers, have so far not reported any confirmed cases of the flu.

But authorities have stepped up surveillance of travellers at airports, with Doha, Dubai and Abu Dhabi installing thermal cameras. Australian state health authorities meanwhile Monday urged school children returning from a range of countries affected by swine flu to stay away from school for a week.