China suspends Mexico flights over flu
BEIJING (Reuters) - China said on Saturday it has suspended flights from Mexico after Hong Kong authorities confirmed a Mexican traveler who transited through the city of Shanghai had the new H1N1 flu.
Local governments are now tracking down the Mexican man's fellow passengers to quarantine them and have also sealed off a Hong Kong hotel where the man stayed, confining some 200 guests and 100 staff to the hotel for the next seven days.
The 25-year-old Mexican is being treated in Hong Kong, where he arrived on Thursday after a stopover in Shanghai.
China's Ministry of Health has asked local authorities to quarantine all passengers who were on the Mexicana Airlines flight AM098 that landed in Shanghai and also those who flew with the man from Shanghai to Hong Kong on China Eastern airlines.
An official with Shanghai Health Bureau said the authorities had tracked down all the passengers from the Mexicana flight who entered Shanghai except seven, without giving further details.
A health official in southern Guangdong province said they had found 37 of 41 passengers that took the same Mexicana flight and traveled further to Guangzhou city.
A total of 189 boarded the AM098 flight, including 176 passengers and 13 crew members, local media said. Mexicana Airlines flies between Mexico and Shanghai. No Chinese airlines fly to Mexico.
The Chinese government said on Saturday it would consider ferrying back Chinese passengers who had originally planned to fly back to China on Mexicana Airlines on May 3.
China this week vowed to disclose any human cases of the new fever promptly, while state-run newspapers have urged officials to be open and avoid the kind of cover-ups that brought panic during the SARS epidemic in 2003.
Experts have expressed worries in the past week about the massive problems that ensue in places like China, India and Indonesia, if the new flu strain was to end up there.
While there have been improvements in recent years, their health infrastructure is still seen as rudimentary and would be hard pressed to cope with any sudden spike in hospital admissions.
The SARS virus killed hundreds in the mainland and Hong Kong.
But back then Chinese officials hid the growing toll from the Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome from the public for weeks before spreading deaths and rumors forced the government to reveal the epidemic, apologize and vow full candor in future disease outbreaks.
(Reporting by Chen Aizhu, Editing by Valerie Lee)
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