EU calls emergency talks as Spain confirms swine flu

Luxembourg/Brussels, April 27 (Inditop) The European Union (EU) called an emergency meeting of health ministers and requested citizens avoid non-essential travel to Mexico and other affected areas as Europe’s first case of swine flu was confirmed in Spain Monday.

“Personally, I would try to avoid non-essential travel to the areas which are reported to be in the centre of the clusters,” said EU Health Commissioner Androulla Vassiliou in Brussels before heading to Luxembourg to brief the bloc’s foreign ministers.

“I would also suggest to travellers to seek immediate medical advice if they have any of the symptoms described,” Vassiliou said.

The commissioner’s video message was broadcast to reporters in Brussels just moments before it was confirmed that a Spanish 23-year-old man had been diagnosed with the disease after returning to Spain from a study trip to Mexico.

The patient was currently being kept in isolation at a hospital in Almansa in the southeast of the country.

However, experts in Brussels said they would not be issuing a travel warning to Spain for the time being.

“No EU country is more at risk than an another,” said Robert Madelin, a top official at the EU’s health commission.

EU officials also confirmed that EU health ministers would hold emergency talks as soon as Thursday, with the meeting likely to take place in Brussels.

EU experts were hard at work drafting guidelines on how the bloc’s 27 member states should commonly respond to what is being described as “a completely new virus”.

The experts ruled out any risk of human contagion via the food chain and dismissed the decision by China and others to ban imports of bacon and other pig produce from affected areas as baseless.

“I had a wonderful pork fillet yesterday and I would recommend it to everyone,” Madelin said.

Jose Manuel Barroso, head of the EU executive in Brussels, said the commission was “following the situation concerning the swine influenza very closely, internally together with the Member States, and internationally in cooperation with the World Health Organisation.”

In Luxembourg, EU foreign ministers warned their citizens against panic, saying that it was too early to say how the situation could develop.

“Let’s wait until the authorities, those who really know, have their evaluation of the situation. I don’t think we should have undue worries until we know what’s really happening,” Swedish Foreign Minister Carl Bildt said.

Health experts have warned that it could take up to six months to develop an effective vaccine to the virus, which was blamed for the death of more than 100 people in Mexico alone so far.