WRAPUP 12-New swine flu infections intensify travel fears

By REUTERS

July 15, 2010 Updated Apr 29, 2009 at 12:20 AM CDT

* U.S. now has 65 cases, Obama asks Congress for money

* WHO says all countries need to prepare for worst

* Mexico death toll at up to 159


(Updates with Mexico death toll now at up to 159)

By Kieran Murray

MEXICO CITY (Reuters) - A global hunt for swine
flu turned up new infections all around the world Tuesday,
and frightened governments warned people to stay away from
Mexico, where up to 159 people have died.

The number of infections in the United States rose to 65,
Canada has 13 and new cases were also confirmed in Israel and
New Zealand.

But global health officials cautioned that the numbers
meant little in a rapidly changing situation, with doctors and
clinics rushing to test people with respiratory symptoms and no
one sure just how far the virus had spread.

Americans, Canadians and Europeans were advised by their
governments to avoid non-essential travel to Mexico. Argentina
halted all flights from Mexico until Monday and Cuba cut air
links for 48 hours.

Mexico closed all of its archeological sites until further
notice on Tuesday, and cruise ships and tour operators turned
away from the country, threatening to batter a tourism industry
that is its No. 3 source of foreign currency.

In the United States, President Barack Obama asked Congress
for an extra $1.5 billion to fight the flu threat, and
California declared a state of emergency, allowing it to deploy
more resources to prevent new infections.

Australia approved tough new powers to detain people
suspected of carrying swine flu if the crisis escalates.

The World Health Organization said a pandemic -- a global
outbreak of a serious new illness -- is not yet inevitable but
that all countries should prepare for the worst, especially
poorer developing nations. "They really get hit
disproportionally hard," said the WHO's acting assistant
director-general Dr. Keiji Fukuda.

A pandemic would deal a new blow to a world economy already
in recession by forcing cuts in travel, trade and manufacturing
output.

Seven countries have confirmed cases of the new swine flu
and a dozen others have suspected infections.

NERVOUS INVESTORS

The global health crisis is unsettling financial markets
and stock markets showed more losses on Tuesday.

"Prices remain in a bit of a swoon as market participants
fret that a potential influenza pandemic might prove fatal to
the frail signs of recovery just beginning to show," said Mike
Fitzpatrick, vice president at MF Global in New York.

Airline shares were again hurt by fears of a sharp drop in
traffic. Oil dropped almost 2 percent to below $50 a barrel and
investors cut their exposure to riskier currencies.

The swine flu virus is not caught from eating pig meat
products but several countries, led by Russia and China, banned
U.S. pork imports. The EU said it has no plans to restrict pig
meat products from the United States.

Mexico is one of the world's top vacation destinations but
the flu scare is forcing forcing many cancellations.

Carnival Cruises scrapped stops at Mexican ports for three
of its ships on Tuesday and Canadian tour operator Transat AT
postponed flights to Mexico until June 1.

U.K. travel firms Thomson Holidays and First Choice decided
to repatriate their customers from Mexico and cancel flights
bound for the popular beach resort of Cancun, although most
airlines continued to operate their services.

Experts say that while it is impossible to stop the spread
of the disease, efforts to slow its progress could buy crucial
time for countries to procure essential drugs.

The WHO's Fukuda said a mild pandemic is possible but he
also cautioned that the 1918 "Spanish" flu that killed tens of
millions of people emerged from mild beginnings.

Worldwide, seasonal flu kills between 250,000 and 500,000
people in an average year.

In Mexico City, many residents are staying in their homes
and authorities have shut schools, cinemas, stadiums,
restaurants and even churches.

People from company directors to couriers wore face masks
while airlines checked passengers for flu symptoms and shoppers
stocked up on food, water and surgical masks, but the usually
hectic city is otherwise very quiet. The government has shut
all schools across Mexico until at least May 6.

Mexico says the first fatal case that alerted authorities
to the strange new virus was in the southern state of Oaxaca
but they have not yet found the origin of the outbreak.

One mystery was why the virus has apparently killed scores
of people in Mexico while cases outside the country have been
relatively mild and no one has died.

WHO officials say they will not know the answers for a
while, while acting U.S. Centers for Disease Control and
Prevention director Dr. Richard Besser said he expected U.S.
deaths would be discovered as doctors searched.
(Additional reporting by Maggie Fox in Washington; Jonathan
Lynn and Laura Macinnis in Geneva; Helen Popper, Robin Emmott
and Mica Rosenberg in Mexico City; Jeff Franks in Havana; Tan
Ee Lyn in Hong Kong; and Lincoln Feast in Singapore; Editing by
Maggie Fox and Doina Chiacu)

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