Mexico City cancels all public events to fight flu

Related Topics: MEXICO CITY
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MEXICO CITY (Map, News) – A deadly new swine flu strain that has killed at least 20 people in Mexico City and sickened more than 1,000 has “pandemic potential,” the World Health Organization chief said Saturday – but some fear it may be too late to contain the outbreak.
MEXICO CITY (Map, News) – A deadly new swine flu strain that has killed at least 20 people in Mexico City and sickened more than 1,000 has “pandemic potential,” the World Health Organization chief said Saturday – but some fear it may be too late to contain the outbreak.

With 24 new suspected cases of the swine flu reported Saturday, Mexico City said schools would remain closed and all public events suspended until further notice – including more than 500 concerts, sporting events and other gatherings including the popular weekly bicycle rides on streets closed to traffic.

A hotline set up the previous day fielded 2,366 calls from frightened city residents who suspected they might have the disease. City Health Secretary Armando Ahued said 10 new possible cases of infection have been discovered in the metropolis of 20 million people.

Officials say more than 1,000 people have been infected nationwide. Tests show 20 people have died of the swine flu, and 48 other deaths were probably due to the same strain.

This virus is a mix of human, pig and bird strains that has epidemiologists around the world deeply concerned. The World Health Organization convened in Geneva Saturday to consider whether to declare an international public health emergency – a step that could lead to travel advisories, trade restrictions and border closures.

The agency’s director-general, Margaret Chan, said the outbreak involves “an animal strain of the H1N1 virus, and it has pandemic potential” – but it is too early to say whether a pandemic will actually occur.

The CDC and Canadian health officials were studying samples sent from Mexico, and some governments in Asia and Latin America began monitoring passengers arriving on flights from Mexico.

But it may be too late to contain the outbreak, given how widespread the known cases are. If the confirmed deaths are the first signs of a pandemic, then cases are probably incubating around the world by now, said Dr. Michael Osterholm, a pandemic flu expert at the University of Minnesota.

The same virus also sickened at least eight people in Texas and California, though there have been no deaths north of the border, puzzling experts at the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

No vaccine specifically protects against swine flu, and it is unclear how much protection current human flu vaccines might offer.
Copyright 2008 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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