EU health ministers to hold swine flu talks

EU health ministers to hold swine flu talks
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First Published: Thu, Apr 30 2009. 09 54 AM IST
Updated: Thu, Apr 30 2009. 09 55 AM IST
Brussels: EU health ministers planned emergency talks in Luxembourg on Thursday to coordinate national efforts in preventing the spread of swine flu in Europe.
Officials, health experts and envoys from the 27-nation bloc have in crisis talks for since the weekend to assess joint measures that could help contain the virus and improve treatment for infected patients.
Already Britain, Spain, Austria and Germany have confirmed cases of the disease, which is blamed for over 150 deaths and 2,400 infections in Mexico.
EU officials said they expected more cases within the bloc in the days ahead.
“We are expecting the situation to develop further, but there is no cause for panic,” EU spokeswoman Nina Papadoulaki said. “We are all ready to manage the situation ... we are doing everything we can.”
The Luxembourg meeting will discuss whether to issue a Europe-wide travel advisory for Mexico, after many EU nations warned travelers to avoid unnecessary trips to Mexico and parts of the United States where outbreaks have been confirmed.
French health minister Roselyne Bachelot said she would push for the EU to suspend flights to Mexico.
The EU ministers will also debate more unified measures for prevention and treatment.
EU health commissioner Androulla Vassiliou met with European drugmakers on Wednesday to discuss efforts to produce vaccines and antivirals to combat swine flu.
National authorities share information on diagnosis and lab results through the European Center for Disease Prevention and Control in Stockholm, which has strongly advised against traveling to Mexico.
Vassiliou also urged Europeans to avoid nonessential travel to Mexico and to affected parts of the United States, but that was strongly criticized by airlines on Wednesday.
Ulrich Schulte-Strathaus, secretary general of the Association of European Airlines called the warnings “irresponsible and ill-advised” and said they could do more harm than good. Airlines are “well-prepared to handle health crises,” he said.
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First Published: Thu, Apr 30 2009. 09 54 AM IST