Tokyo: Asian health authorities were on alert on Sunday, with some checking passengers and pork products from Mexico, as the World Health Organization (WHO) declared the deadly swine flu outbreak a public health emergency of “pandemic potential”. Japan’s biggest international airport stepped up health surveillance, while the Philippines said it may quarantine passengers with fever who have been to Mexico. Health authorities in Thailand and Hong Kong said they were closely monitoring the situation.
China said anyone experiencing flu-like symptoms within two weeks of arriving in the country from swine-flu affected territories was required to report to authorities.
At least 81 people have died from severe pneumonia caused by a flu-like illness in Mexico, according to WHO. Fears of a lethal pandemic lie in the nature of flu germs, which mutate readily and can become virulent by exchanging genes with related influenza viruses.
The concern is that this virus has the ability to transmit from humans to humans because a number of the cases who got infection have had no direct exposure to swine, said Malik Peiris, a microbiologist from the University of Hong Kong.
(‘Bloomberg’ contributed to this story.)