Page last updated at 00:03 GMT, Friday, 1 May 2009 01:03 UK

EU warns against swine flu panic

EU Health Commissioner Androulla Vassiliou: "There is no need to panic"

EU Health Commissioner Androulla Vassiliou has said a possible swine flu global epidemic, or pandemic, would not necessarily cause widespread deaths.

She said Europe was well prepared and there was "no need to panic".

She was speaking after an emergency meeting of health ministers on ways to contain the virus, which has been confirmed in six EU countries.

The ministers rejected a French proposal for a continent-wide suspension on flights to Mexico.

After the talks in Luxembourg Ms Vassiliou said: "We are worried, but we are on top of things."

Mexico: 168 suspected deaths - 12 confirmed
US: one death, at least 109 confirmed cases
New Zealand: 3 confirmed, 13 probable cases
Canada: 19 confirmed cases
UK: 8 confirmed cases
Spain: 10 confirmed cases
Germany: 3 confirmed cases
Israel, Costa Rica: 2 confirmed cases each
The Netherland, Switzerland, Austria: 1 confirmed case each
Peru case now 'unconfirmed' by national government

She added: "The fact that we have been preparing ourselves in the EU for an event such as this for some years now, and the experience gained so far, puts us in a much stronger position."

None of the dozens of cases of swine flu reported on the continent so far has been severe.

The health ministers agreed to work "without delay" with pharmaceutical companies to develop a vaccine.

Rejecting the French plan on suspending flights to Mexico - the main focus of the outbreak - they said it was up to member states to set their own policies.

Several countries have restricted travel to Mexico and many tour operators have cancelled holidays.

Earlier the UN's World Health Organization (WHO) - which increased its pandemic alert to five on Wednesday - said it had no immediate plans for a further rise.

"We do not have any evidence to suggest that we should move to phase six today, or any such move is imminent right now," said WHO Assistant Director General Keiji Fukuda.

In the latest developments:

  • The White House said a security aide who had helped arrange President Barack Obama's recent trip to Mexico has become sick with flu-like symptoms
  • The Netherlands confirms its first case of swine flu, in a three-year-old boy recently returned from Mexico. Cases have also been confirmed in Switzerland and Costa Rica
  • The number of confirmed cases in the US rose to 109 in 11 states
  • Japan reported its first suspected case of swine flu
  • Health Minister Oscar Ugarte said tests on Peru's sole suspected case had proved negative, reversing an earlier statement

Swine flu symptoms are similar to those produced by ordinary seasonal flu - fever, cough, sore throat, body aches, chills and fatigue
If you have flu symptoms and recently visited affected areas of Mexico, you should seek medical advice
If you suspect you are infected, you should stay at home and take advice by telephone initially, in order to minimise the risk of infection

In Mexico, the number of confirmed cases rose to 260 - up from 26 on Wednesday, something experts attributed to many laboratory results coming in.

The Mexican government increased the number of confirmed deaths from swine flu from 8 to 12.

President Felipe Calderon has urged people to stay at home over the next five days.

The US has announced that it will buy 13 million new courses of antiviral treatment and send 400,000 of them to Mexico.

Meanwhile the WHO says it will now call the virus influenza A (H1N1) rather than swine flu - which it says is misleading as pork meat is safe and the virus is being transmitted from human to human.

Egypt has begun a mass slaughter of its pigs, and Ghana is the latest country to ban pork imports as a precaution against swine flu.

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