MOSCOW, April 27 (RIA Novosti) - Countries around the world began measures to prevent a swine flu pandemic, as the human death toll from the virus rose to 103 in Mexico, with hundreds of other suspected cases.
Twenty human cases of swine flu have been confirmed in the United States and six in Canada, and suspected infections have been reported in New Zealand, Israel and Europe. The United States has declared a public health emergency.
Mexican Health Minister Jose Angel Cordova told reporters on Sunday that 103 people in the country are believed to have died from the virus, of which 20 cases have been confirmed.
The minister said that a total of 1,614 suspected human cases have been identified.
Mexico City, one of the world's largest cities, came to a virtual standstill on Sunday, as people stayed in their homes. City Mayor Marcelo Ebard said that stores and leisure facilities could remain closed for the next 10 days.
Several countries including Russia have advised their citizens to avoid travelling to Mexico, and have pledged to put any people showing symptoms of infection under quarantine.
China has banned pork products from Mexico and parts of the United States.
The New Zealand government reported several suspected cases on Monday, among a group of teenagers returning from Mexico. France, Israel and Spain also cited suspected cases among people returning from the Central American country.
World Health Organization Director General Margaret Chan warned on Sunday that the outbreak had "pandemic potential", and urged governments to improve measures to monitor the virus.
According to the WHO, the mortality rate from swine influenza is between 1% and 4%. The virus often goes undetected, as the symptoms are similar to those of ordinary flu.
However, the WHO said on its website that cooked pork products do not pose a health risk.
"Swine influenza has not been shown to be transmissible to people through eating properly handled and prepared pork (pig meat) or other products derived from pigs. The swine influenza virus is killed by cooking temperatures of 160°F/70°C."
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