Tuesday, April 28, 2009

World Braces Amid Swine Flu Fears
THE EVENT: The World Health Organization raised its swine flu pandemic alert level from 3 to 4 late Monday, saying the virus was now widespread and was being transmitted in a sustained way between people.

THE IMPACT SO FAR: The death toll in Mexico's influenza outbreak has risen to 149, with 20 being confirmed as swine flu, of about 2,000 possible cases. The virus has sickened victims from the U.S. to New Zealand, with New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg saying more than 100 students at a parochial school in Queens contracted an illness that was probably swine flu.

The WHO and Centers for Disease Control and Prevention now say 40 Americans are confirmed to have had the swine flu, double the number of confirmed cases a day earlier.

Canadian officials have confirmed six cases. Spain has confirmed one case and is looking at 16 others. France, Belgium and Ireland also are looking into suspicious cases.

POSSIBILITIES OF PANDEMIC: U.N Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon warned the virus could unleash a new global pandemic. The Red Cross and Red Crescent said its national societies around the world were on full alert to tackle the outbreak. U.S President Barack Obama said the outbreak is cause for "concern" but not "alarm."

The WHO also said that a pandemic wasn't inevitable and didn't recommend that countries try to control travel or close their borders.

U.S. GOVERNMENT REACTION: U.S. health officials warned the public Monday to brace for more cases of swine flu and even possible deaths. The U.S. has declared a health emergency and is expected to warn against taking "nonessential" trips to Mexico.

TAKING MEDICAL STEPS: The European Commission is in contact with the vaccine industry to ready supplies of vaccine for any outbreak there. The Association of Southeast Asian Nations has distributed 500,000 doses of flu drugs to 10 member states. China and Russia made plans to quarantine anyone with symptoms. Meanwhile, the U.S. Food and Drug Adminstration has authorized certain emergency uses of antiviral desks and tests in a bid to hasten possible remedies.

BANNING PORK IMPORTS. The WHO said there is no sign the flu spreads by contact with meat. However, China and Thailand have banned hog and pork product imports from Mexico and the U.S., while Russia banned meat imports from those countries and Indonesia banned all pork imports.

MARKETS: The outbreak triggered anxiety in financial markets. U.S. stocks fell as the scare weighed on the transportation and hospitality sectors and major meat producers. The Dow Jones Industrial Average lost 0.64%, the S&P 500 declined 1%, and the Nasdaq Composite lost 0.88%. Treasurys ended higher in volatile trade.

Mexico's stocks and peso fell sharply, with the stock market's IPC index of 35 most-traded issues closing down 3.3%. Other Latin American currencies also sold off sharply. European markets rallied late to close higher. Most Asian markets ended lower.

Commodity prices were down sharply across the board, pressured by concerns over the swine-flu virus. Hog prices have been most affected by the concerns, while cattle markets were down less dramatically. Grain and oilseed futures were also lower.

The following are key stories so far on the outbreak:

-WSJ: WHO Raises Swine Flu Pandemic Alert Level One Notch To 4

-WSJ: Flu Fears Give Drug Makers Shot In Arm

-WSJ: FDA Authorizes Emergency Use Of Drugs In Swine-Flu Outbreak

-Mexico Health Min: Mexico Influenza Death Toll Rises To 149

-UN's Ban Warns That Swine Flu Could Bring World Pandemic

-Mexico's Stocks, Peso Suffer From Flu Worries; IPC -3.3%

-Agencies See No Swine Flu Rating Impact On Mexico Yet

-WSJ: NY Mayor: 100 Students In Queens May Have Swine Flu

-Influenza Epidemic Likely To Add To Mexico's Economic Woes

-Swine Flu Threat Undercuts Rationale For $50-A-Barrel Oil

-S&P: Swine Flu Outbreak Could Have SARS Effect On Airlines

-Obama: Swine Flu A Cause For Concern, Not Alarm

-Asean Distributes 500,000 Courses Of Flu Antivirals To Members

-Argentina Free Of Swine Flu; Monitoring Travelers

-Manila Mayor: Would Be 'Overreaction' To Bar Mexico Travelers

-Nasdaq OMX Cancels Mexico Travel As Exchanges Trigger Contingency Plans

-WSJ:3M Boosts Production Of N95 Masks In Response To Swine Flu

-USDA's Vilsack Tells Trading Partners Not To Ban US Pork

-Belgium Investigating 6 Possible Cases Of Swine Flu

-Ireland Tests Four Suspected Cases Of Swine Flu

-Chile Pres Says Country Prepared To Deal With Swine Flu

-Brazil's President Downplays Swine Flu, But Govt Vigilant

-BIG PICTURE: Swine Flu Should Not Worsen Economy's Problems

-HEARD ON THE STREET: Weakened Economy Vulnerable To Flu

-US Congress Applauds Early Response To Swine Flu

-EU Sets Thursday Swine Flu Emergency Meeting

-Canada Expects More Swine Flu Cases,Possible Deaths

-Canada Unlikely To Impose Controls On US, Mexico Hog Imports

-More Cases Of Potential Swine Flu Detected In Spain, One Confirmed

-French Health Ministry: 4 Potential Swine Flu Cases Suspected

-No Signs That Pigs In US Have Swine Flu

-EU Official: Swine Flu Not Affecting Food Chain, Pigs Not Carriers

-Lebanon Bans Pork Imports Over Swine Flu Fears

-EU Health Chief Recommends Travelers Avoid Swine Flu Regions

-Airlines, Agencies Step Up Swine Flu Vigilance

-Indian Government Says Free of Swine Flu, Warns Travelers

-Novartis In Talks With WHO To Develop Swine Flu Vaccine
(Source: DJ)

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