Panic in Mexico, US as killer swine flu fears cross globe

MEXICO CITY, April 27, 2009 (AFP) – World health officials on Monday stepped up the battle against a new swine flu blamed for dozens of deaths in Mexico, after the US declared a public emergency amid signs the disease was spreading.

Panic grew in Mexico as citizens heeded government warnings to avoid contact with each other.

The United States will screen visitors arriving from infected areas, Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano said Sunday, as 20 cases were confirmed in five states.

Suspected cases were also investigated in Europe, the Middle East and Asia, and six new infections were confirmed in Canada.

Authorities in Mexico, where the new multi-strain swine flu was first detected, confirmed 20 people had died and warned the death toll could be as high as 81. Five people were said to have died in the capital in the past 24 hours.

As thousands of panicked Mexicans wore surgical masks on the streets, President Felipe Calderon called for calm, urging citizens to work with authorities to contain the virus.

Calderon said if people can make timely medical visits, Mexico “can contain this outbreak.”

Mexico City was deserted Sunday after its 20 million citizens were ordered to avoid crowds, and