Global swine flu death toll mounts

Health officials around the world battled Friday to stop the spread of swine flu with schools in Europe closed, as global infections passed the 15,000-mark and more countries announced first cases.

Even US President Barack Obama's visit to France next week was touched by the when a US official preparing a visit to the Normandy beaches was stricken by the virus and put in isolation.

And China reported its first case of domestic infection.

Figures released Friday by the showed that swine flu had infected 15,510 people in 53 countries since it was first uncovered last month in the and Mexico.

The new tally showed that the Czech Republic, Dominican Republic, Romania, Slovakia and Uruguay had all reported cases to the WHO for the first time.

Most of the new cases were reported by the United States, with 1,163 new infections, bringing its total to 7,927. Mexico also posted a significant rise of 369 cases, bringing its total to 4,910.

And the number of deaths rose to 99 after two more deaths were reported by Mexico and one each by Canada and the United States, according to the latest WHO tally.

But according to figures released by individual governments, the virus has now killed more than 110 people around the world. And in the hours after the WHO updated its figures, two countries announced their first cases.

Health officials in Estonia confirmed that they had detected the virus in a 29-year-old man who had returned from United States two days earlier.

And Hungary announced its first confirmed swine flu case: a Brazilian man living in New York who had come to Hungary on Wednesday.

While the 27-year-old man had since recovered, health officials were trying to trace anyone with whom he might have come into contact, Health Minister Tamas Szekely told Hungarian newswire MTI.

Israel's health ministry reported a new case of swine flu, bringing to 11 the total number of people infected by the virus there.

Belgian health authorities closed a primary school in a Brussels suburb on Friday after a 10-year boy was found to have the A(H1N1) virus after a trip to the United States.

All pupils in the boy's class and their teachers received treatment, a statement by the government's flu committee said. "All families have been asked to remain at home and monitor the state of their children."

The Belgian action came only a day after the elite Eton private school in Britain, which has educated generations of British prime ministers and royals, was ordered to close for a week.

A 13-year-old pupil had been confirmed as a swine flu carrier.

Seventeen other new cases were confirmed in Britain, where a total of 203 people have now been infected.

In France meanwhile, an American woman sent to France to prepare the US president's visit to D-Day landing beaches next week has been hospitalised with swine flu, officials said Friday.

"Eleven people who were in close contact with her were given preventive treatment last night and confined to their hotel rooms for 24 hours," said Christian Leyrit, the state representative in the Normandy region.

Leyrit insisted there would be no impact on the D-Day commemorations involving Obama and French President Nicolas Sarkozy on June 6.

Earlier Friday, China's health ministry confirmed the first case of involving a person infected inside the country.

The ministry said a 24-year-old woman in the southern province of Guangdong had been infected after contact with a virus carrier: a 28-year-old Chinese-American man employed at a hospital in New York.

He had flown to Guangzhou on Sunday.

The woman works as a make-up artist at a photo studio in Guangzhou, capital of Guangdong, and came into contact with the sufferer who was having wedding photos taken at the studio, it said.

(c) 2009 AFP

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