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Daily Archives: April 29, 2009

South Korea ‘probably’ has first case

South Korea yesterday reported its first probable case of swine flu after positive preliminary tests on a woman who had recently returned from a trip to Mexico.
"A probable case of swine influenza was confirmed Tuesday," the Korea Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (KCDC) said in a statement in Seoul.
It said the 51-year-old, who returned to Korea Sunday, has been isolated in hospital for treatment and surveillance.
All 315 others on the same flight were being traced and tested, while 40 people who work with the woman have been given anti-viral treatments.
"Test results are substantial enough to classify the patient as a probable swine flu case," said Kang Chun, the KCDC's influenza virus team leader.
The centre said the case would not be officially confirmed until tests are conducted at the US Centers for Disease Control, which would take about one week.
The KCDC said the woman, who lives in Gyeonggi province surrounding Seoul, was coughing and felt chills before taking her flight and reported to health authorities on her return.
She was among three travellers to return recently from trips to Mexico. The other two were found not to carry the swine influenza virus after being quarantined at their homes.
The agriculture ministry announced a ban on live pig imports from North America as a precaution and said imports from other regions would be subject to detailed tests.
Last year South Korea imported 1,800 pigs from countries like the United States, Canada and France for breeding purposes, Yonhap news agency said. This year, 69 animals have been imported from Canada.
The likely human swine flu death toll in Mexico, the epicentre of the outbreak, now stands at 152. The World Health Organisation has raised its flu pandemic alert level.
The United States has confirmed 44 cases of swine flu but no deaths.
Officials in Seoul said 7,000-10,000 people had returned from the United States since April 17, including some whose journeys originated in Mexico.
The KCDC said it would intensify inspections of inbound travellers.
"Rapid antigen tests will be carried out on inbound travellers who are suffering from fever or symptoms of respiratory illness," it said in a statement.
"If confirmed through laboratory tests, patients will immediately be isolated. Travellers to Mexico and the US will be educated on the prevention of swine influenza."
Officials said the country would double its stockpile of Tamiflu and other anti-influenza drugs to a quantity sufficient to treat five million people.

Queues at Hong Kong pharmacies

Queues formed outside pharmacies in Hong Kong yesterday as residents, spurred by memories of the deadly SARS virus, stocked up on medical supplies to counter any potential swine flu outbreak.
While there have been no reported cases of the latest swine flu strain in Hong Kong, housewives and domestic helpers were taking no chances and joined the scramble for face masks and anti-flu drugs.
FM Dispensary in the Wanchai district had around 25 people waiting outside. Shopkeeper Rene Chow said he had five times more customers than usual asking for face masks.
"We ordered 1,000 more face masks yesterday and 1,000 more today to cope with the sudden surge in demand. But the stock was gone within hours of them arriving," he told AFP.
Chow said local mask manufacturers said they would not be able to supply any more stock until May 10. Shoppers were also stocking up on disinfectant.
Several other pharmacies in the area had sold out of face masks.
The experience of SARS, which left close to 300 people dead in Hong Kong after arriving in the city in 2003, meant residents wanted to be well-prepared.
"There was a time during SARS when all the stores ran out of face masks. Hong Kong people had to go on a panic search for face masks at that time and they certainly do not want to go through it once more," Chow said.
Anti-flu drugs were also running short at Hong Kong's private medical practices and dispensaries, although the government said it had large stockpiles, the South China Morning Post reported.
The likely death toll from swine flu in Mexico, the epicentre of the outbreak, has risen to 152, and the virus has now spread to Europe.
Hong Kong, which already has some of the toughest health security measures in the world, has stepped up its surveillance of visitors for signs of flu and made swine flu a "notifiable disease."
As a result, authorities can now quarantine anyone who has come into contact with a suspected patient.