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Swine flu continues to spread in Asia

Hong Kong, June 19 The number of confirmed influenza A/H1N1 cases continued to rise in most of Asian countries Friday.

New Zealand now reported 216 confirms cases. It was moving to a "manage it" phase as part of its response to the outbreak. The shift in phase reflected the increased spread of the virus, rather than a change in the severity of the illness, said Health Minister Tony Ryall.

"We're remaining in code yellow, we are not moving to code red, this is a reflection of the spread, not the severity, of the flu," he said.

Malaysia declared four more imported cases of A/H1N1 flu Thursday, bringing up the total number of the patients to 27, local media reported Friday.

So far, 12 of the 27 patients had fully recovered and the others still remained in quarantine and treatment in hospital.

Malaysian authorities also said that 10 of the 27 patients were foreigners, and currently a total of 160 close contacts of these patients were under quarantine in the country.

Malaysia has introduced 10 new measures to prevent A/H1N1 flu from spreading in the country.

Malaysian Deputy Prime Minister Muhyiddin Yassin said that one of the measures was compulsory health declaration form by all travelers arriving in the country, which would be gazetted next week.

Other measures included sending health officers on board flights to scan body temperatures of passengers coming from the US, Melbourne of Australia and Manila of the Philippines.

Also, Malaysia would give A/H1N1 flu vaccines to high-risk groups to reduce infection risks.

Thailand's Public Health Ministry Friday announced 71 more patients, who are confirmed to have caught the A/H1N1 flu virus, bringing the country's total number to 589.

The Japanese government relaxed its guidelines for dealing with the new A/H1N1 influenza Friday although the total infection tally is still on the rise.

Under the revised guidelines, the government allows every medical institution in the country to see new flu patients and for people with mild symptoms to recuperate at home.

The government will also stop counting all individual infections and focus instead more on early detection of group infections.

The health ministry also decided to start producing a vaccine against the new flu in mid-July, which would allow for inoculations to start as early as October, by stopping output of seasonal flu vaccine.

The tally of infections in Japan approached 750 as of Friday morning after the first cases were confirmed May 9. But symptoms are milder than initially feared and no one died due to the disease.

In Australia, Health Minister Nicola Roxon issued a statement Friday night after a man confirmed with the virus died, saying that A/H1N1 flu remains mild in Australia and most people infected make a rapid and full recovery.

In Bangladesh, the first A/H1N1 flu case was detected Thursday, the health ministry said Friday.

Singapore has confirmed another 26 new cases of influenza A/ H1N1, bringing the total number of confirmed cases there to 103, the country's health ministry said Friday night.

Singapore reported its first confirmed case of Influenza A/H1N1 May 27. So far, 29 patients have been discharged. The remaining patients are still in the hospital and their conditions remain stable.

In China's Hong Kong, a study done by local experts showed that the magnitude of influenza A's summer peak has become higher in recent years in Hong Kong.

The Chinese University of Hong Kong and the Hong Kong Observatory jointly studied the relationship between weather and influenza activity in Hong Kong.

The study analyzed the information of the laboratory-confirmed influenza A and B cases admitted to the Prince of Wales Hospital and the Observatory's weather data from 1997 to 2006.

The study found that, in general, there were more influenza A than influenza B-associated admissions in Hong Kong. The two types of influenza showed a different relationship with weather conditions.

As the new strain disease, influenza A/H1N1, which is spreading among different countries and regions, belongs to the influenza A type, the magnitude of the new virus is expected to become stronger during June and July.

Hong Kong health authorities Friday said 16 new cases of influenza A/H1N1 were confirmed, bringing to 237 the total number such cases in the city.

Macao reported an A/H1N1 influenza suspect case Friday as a Macao resident tested positive for the virus in preliminary tests.

Despite the climbing number of A/H1N1 influenza cases in neighbouring regions, the Special Administrative Region (SAR) reported its first confirmed case Thursday.

--IANS

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