FIFA monitoring swine flu

Monday, May 4, 2009

Johannesburg - World football governing body, FIFA, said it was closely monitoring the outbreak of swine flu, weeks before the world's top regional teams travel to South Africa.

FIFA medical experts said it was still too early to make a decision on whether the outbreak of swine flu could affect the Confederations Cup tournament in South Africa next month.

"We would really like to underline that it will really be premature to make a statement with regard to the upcoming world cup qualifier, as well as of course the upcoming competition ... the FIFA Confederations Cup.

"We just have to monitor the situation ... but for the moment, really it will be premature to make any speculative statement in that regard," FIFA media officer Delia Fischer told BuaNews on Monday.

Last week, FIFA Secretary General Jerome Valcke told a press briefing in Johannesburg that the FIFA is monitoring the situation and hoped it will be under control before the seven teams arrive in South Africa in June.

"We will cancel only if we feel that we have to. If there are no risks and if we have all the necessary assurances, the competition will go ahead.

"It is serious, it is so serious that we cancelled our Concacaf tournament in Mexico," he added.

The organisation was obliged to cancel the Confederations of North and Central Americas and the Caribbean Association Football tournament in Mexico because of the outbreak.

Countries playing in the tournament have the right to bar their teams from travelling to South Africa from the Confederations Cup, which runs from 14 to 28 June, Mr Valcke said.

Although no confirmed cases of the flu have been reported in South Africa, health authorities and officials at all ports of entry are ready to handle any cases of the deadly flu.

Meanwhile, a Joburg couple have been placed in quarantine for eight days to be monitored for swine flu in Hong Kong, after a Mexican who had stayed in their hotel was confirmed to have the virus.

Faghmi and Mari Abrahams are among the 300 guests and staff of Metropark Hotel in Wanchai, Hong Kong.

The lock-in at the four-star hotel began on Friday after a Mexican who had stayed there became Asia's first confirmed case of human swine flu. He remained in a stable condition, officials said yesterday.

Emergency measures have been taken across the world in places where the virus has been confirmed, but only Hong Kong has isolated an entire hotel.

Department of Foreign Affairs spokesperson Nomfanelo Kota told BuaNews that Faghmi and Mari were the only South Africans in the hotel.

This week, authorities were expected to confirm whether a Mossel Bay woman has contracted swine flu but private lab tests have come up negative.

The woman displayed flu-like symptoms after returning from a trip to Mexico.

The Health Department's Fidel Hadebe told BuaNews that they were hoping to get the results this week.

"We still want to do our own tests to demonstrate the ability of our systems in responding to the circumstances," Mr Hadebe said.

Meanwhile, governments around the world are on alert after some 200 sickened pigs were found infected with the H1N1 flu virus in Canada on Sunday.

The Canadian Food Inspection Agency (CFIA) said that it was highly probable the estimated 200 pigs caught the virus from a Canadian who had been exhibiting flu-like symptoms after returning from Mexico.

Late Saturday, Mexican Health Minister Jose Angel Cordova raised the confirmed national death toll from Influenza A/H1N1 to 19 and the number of sick to 454, adding that the epidemic in the country is "in a stabilisation phase."

"I believe we have enough elements to say that we are in a stabilisation phase," Minister Cordova said.

Other confirmed infection cases worldwide include 197 in the US.; 85 in Canada; 15 in Spain; 15 in Britain; six in Germany; four in New Zealand; two each in Israel, France and South Korea; one each in Costa Rica, Ireland, Italy, Switzerland, Austria, China's Hong Kong, Denmark and the Netherlands.

Mike Ryan, World Health Organisation Director of Global Alert and Response, said the UN agency saw no evidence of sustained community spread outside North America, a condition that warrants declaring a full global pandemic.