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Wednesday, May 6, 2009

UN chief urges joint global response as flu cases continue to rise

BEIJING, May 6 (Xinhua) -- United Nations Secretary-General BanKi-moon has called for "a collective global response" as the number of the A/H1N1 infections continues to rise mildly across the world.

"So far we have been fortunate that its (H1N1 flu) consequence has been relatively mild -- we have learnt valuable lessons," Ban told his monthly press conference in New York Tuesday.

"This outbreak is yet another reminder that we live in an inter-connected world. A threat to one country is a threat to all, requiring a collective global response," he said.

According to the latest official figures, 1,883 infections have been confirmed worldwide.

World Health Organization (WHO) Assistant Director-General Keiji Fukuda said Tuesday that the disease was still spreading, but there was still no evidence showing the new flu virus causing community-level transmission in regions outside North America.

"We do not feel we are seeing that right now," Fukuda told a news briefing, adding that most cases in Spain and other European countries were related to travel.

However, England's chief medical officer Liam Donaldson said it is "too early" to assume the A/H1N1 flu outbreak is "a mild infection." England reported later Tuesday a new case of A/H1N1 flu, bringing the confirmed total infections in Britain to 28,

Donaldson was quoted by the BBC as warning against complacency because flu viruses could change character "very rapidly," even though no one in Britain has died so far from the new flu.

On Tuesday, the U.S. state of Texas reported the second human A/H1N1 flu death in the state, which is also the second death in the United States which now has 651 confirmed infections.

Few details have been released but the state's health department said in a brief statement that a woman, who died from the disease earlier this week, was a Texas resident living in Cameron County, along the U.S.-Mexico border.

The woman had chronic underlying health conditions, the statement said.

A Mexican toddler who was visiting relatives died from the disease last week in Houston.

Meanwhile, at least 16 patients have been discharged from hospital in Mexico after they recovered from the A/H1N1 epidemic, Mexican officials said Tuesday

"What we have achieved in a week of unprecedented action is to reduce the speed at which virus can spread and avoid deaths," said Mexico City Mayor Marcelo Ebrard Casaubon.

Twenty-nine people have been killed by the A/H1N1 flu virus in Mexico. The epicenter of the outbreak has now 942 confirmed infections.

Mexico closed educational institutions last week, effectively sending home 33 million people. These institutions will reopen in stages, starting with higher education institutions on Wednesday. Nurseries and primary schools will be the last to reopen on Monday.

Canada on Tuesday added 25 mild cases of the A/H1N1 flu virus infections, bringing the total to 165, according to figures revealed by the Public Health Agency of Canada.

Health officials said the country's only serious case, a young girl in Alberta province is "recovering well" and is now breathing on her own. All other cases in Canada have been mild, with most patients having recovered.

The Spanish Health Ministry on Tuesday confirmed 16 new cases of influenza A/H1N1, lifting the total to 73.

The number of probable cases has lowered to 56 from 63, the ministry said, adding that all the confirmed cases except five had traveled to Mexico.

Other confirmed A/H1N1 infections include nine in Germany; six in New Zealand; five in Italy; four in Israel and France; two each in El Salvador and South Korea; one each in Austria, Costa Rica, Colombia, Denmark, Hong Kong (China), Ireland, the Netherlands, Portugal and Switzerland.

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