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Asia-Pacific on High Alert as Swine Flu Fears Intensify


As concerns that swine flu is spreading through the Asia-Pacific region, New Zealand has confirmed new infections and several countries are stepping border protection measures. In Germany, authorities have confirmed the country's first case of the virus.

New Zealand says it has three more swine flu cases, in addition to the 11 identified earlier.

Also on Wednesday, Germany confirmed a case of swine flu, which has been found in Mexico, Spain, Israel, Canada, Costa Rica and the United States. The virus was first identified in Mexico, where it is suspected of causing more than 150 deaths.

No cases of the disease have yet been confirmed elsewhere in the Asia-Pacific region. In South Korea, several people with flu symptoms are undergoing tests and Chinese authorities are on full alert after several children became ill with symptoms resembling those of swine flu.

In Australia, about 100 people are being tested for the disease and the government is boosting surveillance measures that require planes to report any sick passengers before they land.

At least six people with flu-like symptoms were escorted off a plane in Brisbane airport, with one person detained and tested for swine flu.

Travelers arriving in Sydney from Hong Kong say they had to pass through thermal imaging scanners before getting on their flights.

"You walk past - they've obviously got a monitor pointing at you - you walk past and it reads your body temperature on a screen," said one traveler. "They also did random checks of people, taking individual temperature checks and they did ask us if we had been into some of the affected areas if we could go and notify a doctor or ground staff in Hong Kong airport but Sydney and London seem to be pretty relaxed about it."

Other passengers arriving from South America spoke of being quarantined at Santiago airport in Chile before being allowed to board their flight to Australia.

"In Chile, when we came off the plane, there is a camera at the end, catches everybody coming in," said another traveler. "You have to stand on a cross on the floor and then we got put into quarantine for half an hour, just while they went through the paperwork."

Japan and Taiwan are preparing to send doctors aboard incoming flights to perform health checks.

Australia New Zealand, Hong Kong, Japan, South Korea, Singapore and Taiwan have all advised against non-essential travel to Mexico.

Officials at the Association of Southeast Asian Nations say it is ready to quickly tap its emergency stockpile of one million courses of Tamiflu, an anti-flu treatment.

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