Asia-Pacific ministers concerned over swine flu impact on travel

Asia-Pacific ministers concerned over swine flu impact on travel Manila- Asia-Pacific transport ministers on Tuesday expressed concern over the possible impact of a deadly swine flu outbreak on global travel and agreed to undertake "urgent steps" to prevent the spread of the disease. Philippine Transportation Undersecretary Elena Bautista said officials and representatives of the 21 Asia-Pacific Economic Conference (APEC) economies called for greater cooperation to ensure public safety.

"The pandemic influenza was included in the discussions and ministers noted that the issue should be given immediate attention," Bautista told reporters at the start of the two-day meeting of the APEC transportation working group in Manila.

In Mexico, the hardest hit, 149 people have died of influenza. Only 26 of them have been confirmed to have died from swine flu by the US Center for Disease Control and Prevention. The Mexican government had confirmed 20 deaths from swine flu on Monday.

There have been confirmed infections in the US, New Zealand, Britain and Spain so far, but no deaths were reported outside of Mexico.

"The ministers said we have to give priority to this issue and instructed the senior officials to coordinate with our counterparts in the health ministries to contain the global spread of the pandemic influenza," Bautista said.

She said ministers raised concerns about the impact on travel and discussed measures that the transport industry could take to contain the spread of the virus and to protect travellers.

On Monday, the World Health Organization raised its pandemic alert level for influenza to phase 4 in response to the swine flu outbreak's rapid spread from Mexico to other countries. But it did not recommend restrictions on travel.(dpa)