EU calls urgent swine flu meeting: commission

27th April 2009, Comments 0 comments

While there is no need for panic in the Europe, EU health ministers will meet to discuss the possible threat posed by the swine flu outbreak.

BRUSSELS – The European Commission on Monday called an urgent meeting of EU health ministers to discuss the possible threat posed by the swine flu outbreak, a spokesman said.

"Together with the Czech (EU) presidency, an extraordinary meeting of the health council will be convened as soon as possible," European Commission President Jose Manuel Barroso said in a statement.

EU Health Commissioner Androulla Vassiliou was due to travel to Luxembourg Monday to hold talks on the outbreak with EU foreign ministers.

Swedish Foreign Minister Carl Bildt, whose country will assume the EU presidency in July, called for calm, saying there was no need for panic in Europe.

"Let's wait until the authorities and those that really know have their evaluation of the situation," he told reporters in Luxembourg.

"I don't think we should have undue worries until we know what's happening."

World health officials have stepped up the battle against swine flu after Mexico upped the probable death toll from the epidemic to 103 and the United States declared a public emergency.

Asian governments imposed strict controls Monday to prevent swine flu from sweeping the region, screening air passengers and vowing to quarantine anyone showing symptoms of the deadly virus.

In New Zealand, where nine high school students and a teacher were thought likely to have swine flu after returning from Mexico, authorities were tracking down hundreds of air passengers who might also be at risk.

While there have not been any confirmed cases of swine flu outside of the Americas, screening of potential victims has already begun in parts of Europe.

Spain screened all passengers arriving off flights from Mexico on Sunday and tested eight suspected cases of swine fever as fear gripped Europe over the spread of the killer virus.

Spanish authorities have already put eight people in quarantine after they returned recently from Mexico.

Two patients in Scotland were also under observation after their return from Mexico.

But four people tested for swine flu in France after recently returning from the Americas were given the all-clear by doctors, Health Minister Roselyne Bachelot said Monday.

"The commission is following the situation concerning the swine influenza very closely, internally together with the Member States, and internationally in cooperation with the World Health Organization," Barroso said.

"We will continue to assess the information we are getting from the experts, evaluate the potential danger and decide together with member states on the measures to take," he said.

Finnish Foreign Minister Alexander Stubb, at the talks in Luxembourg, admitted that "any time you hit a big epidemic you have to have your worries."

"When you see an epidemic moving as fast as this one you are going to have to do something," he added.

"This is where coordinated European efforts seem to work quite well."

AFP / Expatica

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