Countries around the globe are now struggling to curb the spread of swine flu that has so far killed up to 103 people in Mexico and sickened others in the United States.

The World Health Organization (WHO) on Sunday, April 26, declared the swine flu outbreak in Mexico and the U.S. a ‘public health emergency of international concern’ and urged countries to be alert. Based on the advice of a WHO committee, Director-general Margaret Chan ‘has determined that the current events constitute a public health emergency of international concern,’ the UN agency said in a statement.

Cases of swine flu usually occur only among people who work with swine. And the current swine flu could possibly be turned into a global pandemic after the outbreak of highly pathogenic H5N1 avian influenza in 1997. To date, death toll has kept rising in both Mexico and the U.S.

The Mexican health secretary Jose Angel Cordova said on Sunday that the death toll of confirmed and suspected swine flu cases rose to 103, with the number of sickened cases reach 1,614.

The Mexican Health Secretary updated the numbers while speaking to Televisa Mexican national television network on Sunday night, adding that around 400 people were hospitalized out of the more than 1,600 suspected cases.

Mexican health official had reported 86 deaths earlier Sunday and nearly 1,400 sickened.

The U.S. declared the public health emergency as confirmed cases spread to five states, and all 20 cases have had mild influenza-like illness with only one of them serious.

The U.S. declared public health emergency with 20 swine flu cases confirmed. New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg said on Sunday that the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) confirmed eight high school students from the city have been infected with swine flu, Bloomberg told a press conference the cases are mild and that many are recovering.

After the onset of swine flu, experts from countries worldwide formed an emergency committee to deal with the influenza. The WHO chief is recommending, on the advance of the committee, that all countries intensify surveillance for unusual outbreaks of influenza-like illness and severe pneumonia, the UN agency statement said.

Nevertheless, more information is needed before a decision could be made concerning the appropriateness of the current ‘phase 3’ alert level of a pandemic risk, according to the advice of the committee, which is composed of international experts in a variety of disciplines.

Swine influenza (or swine flu) is, as a matter of fact, a respiratory disease of pig caused by Type A influenza that regularly cause outbreaks of influenza among pigs. The WHO pandemic alert includes altogether six phrases, ‘Phase 3’ means ‘no or very limited human-to-human transmission.

The Mexican government has so far appropriated a total of 450,000 US dollars for the fight against swine flu. President Felipe Calderon issued an emergency decree giving his government special powers to run tests on sick people and other them to be isolated and giving himself power to order quarantines and suspend public events.

Apart from Mexico and the U.S., quite a few other countries in the American region have worked out plans concerning the public health emergency of ‘pandemic potential’.

Argentinean authority declared a health alert, requiring anyone arriving on flights from Mexico to advise if they had flu-like symptoms. Health departments in Costa Rica and Honduras issued an alert against the flu.

The Peruvian Health Ministry monitor travelers arriving from Mexico and the U.S. and people with flu-like symptoms will be evaluated by health teams, and a national precautionary plan be launched to cope with potential threats. And El Salvador also introduces the quarantine border monitory.

Some Asian and European nations, particularly those which often import pork from Mexico and the U.S., keep a close eye on latest developments of swine flu and would resort to even tougher measures.

In France, public health officials have placed on alert four people, including three from the same family, who were checked after arriving from Mexico with suspicious symptoms, the French Health Ministry said.

New Zealand’s health minister said on Sunday that 10 students and one teacher who just returned ‘likely’ have swine flu, whereas the British government urge those who have just returned from the above-mentioned countries with flu-like symptoms to receive prompt treatment.

Russian President Dmitry Medvedev on Sunday signed a decree to set up an anti-swine flu committee, and ordered airports across Russia to adopt special measures as of the last Sunday afternoon for flights arriving from Mexico and the U.S.

The government of the Republic of Korean (ROK) announced to tighten quarantine measures for pork to be imported from the U.S. and Mexico as of April 27 after the outbreak of swine influenza in their countries, local media reported.

The ROK national veterinary Research and Quarantine Service announced earlier on Saturday, or April 25, that the American and Mexican pork to be imported beginning April 27 will be put in quarantine to check if it was infected with the disease.

Japan has tightened precautionary and preventive measures against the threat of swine flu as the deadly outbreaks in Mexico claimed 103 people. It has striven to establish as soon as possible a system to ascertain swine influenza. The Japanese government demands all animal quarantine offices to examine pigs and check up physically all people returning from Mexico, who are also asked to report unusual symptoms.

Hong Kong will step up local surveillance system at boundary control points and the public health laboratory in light of outbreaks of human infection of swine Influenza A/H1N1 in Mexico and the U.S., announced the Center for Health Protection of the HK Health Department.

Travelers from the affected places found to suffer swine influenza symptoms at the Hong Kong’s boundary control points will be taken to hospitals for their investigation. Laboratory testing for swine influenza will be conducted for patients with flu-like illness who have traveled to the affected places within seven days before the onset of symptoms.

China, currently on alert to prevent swine flu infection, is organizing experts to study and analyze the virus series. Its General Administration of Quality Supervision, Inspection and Quarantine issued an emergency notice last Saturday night requiring people to report flu-like symptoms at the point of entry when coming from the deadly swine flu affected places.

This is China’s latest move in response to the onset of human infection of Swine Influenza A/H1N1 in Mexico and the United States. The Chinese Ministry of Public Health said it has organized experts to study prevention measures and would enhance contract with WHO as well as the governments of Mexico and the U.S. to learn about their latest developments.

General speaking, the humankind seldom contracts swine influenza. In recent years, however, some people have been reported to have cases of swine influenza, and they are usually people who work with pigs.

WHO has identified swine influenza as a potential source of human flu pandemic. Cooking to an internal temperature of 71 degrees Celsius (160 degrees Fahrenheit) kills swine virus, as it does other bacteria and viruses. ‘It’s safe to eat pork as it’s commonly heated above 71 degrees Celsius.’ A senior health official said.

By People’s Daily Online and contributed by PD reporters Cui yin, Liao Zhengjun, Zhang Huijun, Yu Qing and Zuo Ya