U.S. declares swine flu health emergency

The U.S. government announced a health emergency on Sunday afternoon as the number of swine flu cases climbed.

Eight students in New York tested positive for swine flu, adding another state to the roster. California, Texas, Kansas and Ohio have all confirmed swine flu cases as well. And Canada said that it has confirmed swine flu in four students who had returned from a trip to Mexico. More cases will likely be confirmed in coming days, says the U.S. government.

So far the cases north of the Mexican border have been mild. But in Mexico health officials are operating on the belief that the virus has killed 81 people. Testing has confirmed the link among twenty dead.

Meanwhile, countries around the world began to take protective action to guard against a pandemic. Hong Kong, which has had a long history dealing with lethal flu outbreaks, says it will detain people in hospitals if they arrive with a fever or respiratory ailments and have traveled through a city with a confirmed case of swine flu. It is urging residents not to travel to Mexico.

Sanofi Pasteur, one of the world's prominent vaccine makers, says that it is ready to help with a vaccine targeted against this new version of swine flu.

"Sanofi Pasteur, as the world's leading producer of influenza vaccine, is standing ready to assess its capabilities to support public health efforts, should the WHO and other health authorities request support from influenza vaccine manufacturers," said spokesman Pascal Barollier.

But it is Roche, which sells Tamiflu, that will likely be the first to get into the act. Roche says it has three million doses of the antiviral medication, which combats swine flu and has proved effective in patients suffering from the current outbreak. GlaxoSmithKline's Relenza also works against this version of swine flu.

- check out the report from CNN
- here's the New York Times story
- read the report from Reuters