US monitors visitors, warns against Mexico travel



WASHINGTON- Washington on Monday issued a travel alert warning against non-essential travel to Mexico and stepped up monitoring of travelers entering the United States amid the deadly swine flu outbreak.
The State Department "alerts US citizens of the health risks of travel to Mexico at this time due to an outbreak of H1N1 'swine flu,'" it said in a statement.



US monitors visitors, warns against Mexico travel
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) also issued a notice "recommending that American citizens avoid all nonessential travel to Mexico at this time," the agency added.
Officials at airports, land ports and border crossings have also begun screening travelers and questioning those who show flu symptoms, Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano told reporters earlier.
The number of confirmed swine flu cases in the United States more than doubled on Monday to 44. The virus is suspected of causing the deaths of 149 people in Mexico.
Customs and Border Protection officials will make a decision about whether individuals that appear sick "can go ahead and enter the country and go to a place to get taken care of, or whether they need to go back home," Napolitano said.
Secretary of State Hillary Clinton meanwhile urged US citizens to exercise caution when visiting Mexico.
"We are taking this very seriously," she said as she met with Singapore's Foreign Minister George Yeo.
Clinton said the State Department was working closely with the CDC on assessing the virus, which was apparently born out of a mix of human and avian flu viruses that infected pigs, and has made the jump to human-to-human transmission.
The World Health Organization (WHO) raised its flu pandemic alert level from three to four, signaling a "significant increase in risk of a pandemic."
In addition to other precautions, the United States has issued health alert notices that are being posted at ticket counters and gates at airports, and other information is being handed out at land ports.
Some 19 major US airports have quarantine facilities available that would cover about 85 percent of air travelers, according to Napolitano. But she told CNN that the quarantines have not yet been activated.
The CDC has provided a fact sheet and symptom checklist on its website at http://cdc.gov/swineflu/
The State Department said the US embassy in Mexico City has suspended all non-essential consular services from Monday until Thursday, and will only offer services for citizenship applications and emergency assistance.
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Tuesday, April 28th 2009
AFP
           


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