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World flu alert goes higher

world Updated: Apr 30, 2009 15:34 IST
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Mexico readied a "temporarily closed" sign taking the drastic step of ordering a suspension of non essential federal government and private business activity as it tried to squelch a swine flu epidemic. The World Health Organisation ratcheted up an alert and warned that "all of humanity" is threatened.

The dire warning showed that world health officials are very worried about the potential for massive numbers of deaths worldwide from the mutated virus, even though the epidemic so far has claimed only a confirmed eight lives in Mexico and one in the United States. Roughly 170 deaths are suspected of having been caused by the virus in Mexico.

The Phase 5 alert, indicating a pandemic could be imminent as the virus spread further in Europe, prompted Mexico to announce the partial May 1-5 shutdown, Mexican Health Secretary Jose Cordova said on Thursday.

In Washington, President Barack Obama promised "great vigilance" in confronting the outbreak which has sickened nearly 100 people in 11 states and forced schools to close. A Mexican toddler who visited Texas with his family died Monday night in Houston, becoming the first fatality in the US, and 39 Marines were confined to their base in California after one came down with the disease.