Mexican officials have suspended schools across the country until early
May, as the nation deals with an outbreak of swine flu that is now
believed to have killed 149 people there.
The health minister Monday announced the higher suspected death toll, which climbed to 149 from just over 100.
Mexico is the epicenter of the outbreak and more than 1,600 people in the country have been sickened.
Forty cases of the illness have been confirmed in the United States,
while six have been confirmed in Canada. Spain confirmed its first case
Monday, and suspected cases are being investigated in New Zealand,
France, Israel and Scotland. Some of the ill have recently returned
from visits to Mexico.
Governments around the world are urging caution with regard to travel
to Mexico, and are screening travelers arriving from affected areas.
The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says the U.S.
government is issuing a travel advisory for Mexico out of an "abundance
U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon said the world body is concerned
that the virus could cause a new influenza pandemic. He said it is
unclear if it would be mild or severe, but noted with concern that
those who died in Mexico were young, healthy adults.
Earlier in Washington, U.S. President Barack Obama said the United
States is closely monitoring cases of the swine flu in the U.S. He said
the situation is cause for concern, but "not a cause for alarm."
Nations are racing to avoid both a pandemic and global hysteria, as more suspected cases of swine flu emerge.
The United States has declared a public health emergency to allow
authorities to spend federal money and release stockpiles of anti-viral
medication. Mr. Obama said the declaration was issued as a
The WHO says the virus is "a public health emergency of international
concern" with "pandemic potential." The International Red Cross says it
"will spare no resources in tackling" the threat.
On Monday, the European Union called for an urgent meeting of EU health
ministers, which is likely to take place Thursday. The EU health
commissioner recommended avoiding travel to affected areas.
A U.S. House of Representatives committee is holding an emergency
hearing Thursday on the outbreak and the U.S. federal response.
The WHO says swine influenza, or "swine flu," is a highly contagious
acute respiratory disease of pigs, caused by one of several swine
influenza A viruses. It says symptoms are generally similar to seasonal
flu, but that cases have ranged broadly from mild infections to severe
pneumonia resulting in death.