This Article is From May 02, 2009

Swine flu reaches Asia; global cases rise to 365

Swine flu reaches Asia; global cases rise to 365
Hong Kong: The first case of swine flu was confirmed in Asia as health experts said the world appeared better prepared to fight an epidemic now than a few years ago and vowed a vaccine was only months away.

Confirmation by Hong Kong authorities that a traveler who arrived from Mexico, via Shanghai, had tested positive for A(H1N1) flu virus saw an entire hotel quarantined.

And the news sent shivers through the territory that was at the center of the 2003 SARS crisis, with Beijing responding swiftly by suspending flights from Mexico to Shanghai, China's state media reported on Saturday.

Meanwhile, South Korea on Saturday reported its first confirmed case of swine flu, according to Yonhap news agency.

A 51-year-old nun, who has been quarantined since Tuesday after returning from Mexico, has the disease, an official at the health ministry told Yonhap. She had been the nation's first "probable" case of the new flu virus.

"We confirmed the first probable patient was infected with the virus," the official said on condition of anonymity.

The nun was among three probable flu patients reported this week, Yonhap said.

Denmark and France joined the list of countries reporting their first cases.

But in a sign that authorities may be containing the spread of the disease, Mexico, which has been at the epicenter of the outbreak, said the new multi-strain virus appeared not to be as aggressive as had first been feared.

Mexican Health Minister Jose Angel Cordova said the country's confirmed toll now stood at 15 dead and 328 people infected, as lab tests came through from hundreds of backlogged cases.

"Fortunately the virus is not so aggressive -- it's not a case of avian flu, which had a mortality rate of nearly 70 percent," Cordova told reporters.

Hong Kong Chief Executive Donald Tsang was taking no chances however in this densely populated, sub-tropical territory, saying he would "raise the alert level from serious to emergency."

And Xinhua news agency reported Beijing was shutting down flights between Mexico and Shanghai.

"With a case of influenza A (H1N1) confirmed in a flight from Mexico, the Chinese government has decided to suspend flights from Mexico to Shanghai in east China," the Xinhua agency reported the Foreign Ministry as saying.

The report said China had notified the Mexican government and airline companies about the decision, adding Beijing may send a charter plane to Mexico to collect "Chinese passengers who had planned to fly to Shanghai from the city of Mexico on May 3."

The World Health Organisation has warned an official pandemic is now imminent, raising its alert level to five out of six, but a senior official at the UN agency said a vaccine was in the pipeline.