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Swine flu threat far from over, say experts -

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Reporter: Barbara Miller

PETER CAVE: With Mexican authorities saying the swine flu outbreak is now in decline, health
officials are warning against complacency in efforts to contain the spread of the disease.

Flu experts say that while it appears that a pandemic is no longer imminent, the threat is far from
over.

They're defending themselves against accusations of an over-reaction, saying that if you fall
behind in fighting a severe flu outbreak, you can't catch up.

Barbara Miller reports.

BARBARA MILLER: The number of confirmed cases of swine flu continues to rise.

The latest WHO update reports 898 cases in 18 countries.

But authorities in the country where it's believed to have originated think the worst is over.

Jose Cordova is Mexico's Health Secretary.

JOSE CORDOVA (translated): The evolution of the epidemic is now in its declining phase. Nationally
it peaked over the past few days. Results show that the virus is susceptible to anti-viral agents
that we had in strategic reserve.

The preventative measures have apparently been effective in cutting the transmission of the virus.

BARBARA MILLER: Alan Hampson a leading Australian flu expert and WHO consultant told ABC Local
Radio in Melbourne that it now looks like there won't be a pandemic:

ALAN HAMPSON: The picture is becoming a little clearer and it may be the amount of noise coming out
of Mexico initially was maybe a little unjustified.

Personally, I would have been very surprised if we were right on the brink of a pandemic from this
particular virus. I may still be wrong but I now place it as potentially a severe public health
nuisance but less chance that it will be a public health disaster at this point.

BARBARA MILLER: The experts are warning though that the world still needs to be vigilant for some
time to come.

GREGORY HARTL: We cannot lower our guard.

BARBARA MILLER: Gregory Hartl is a WHO spokesman.

GREGORY HARTL: There is the high possibility that this virus will come back - especially in colder
periods. Mexico is in the northern hemisphere. We are entering the summer months where normally
influenza activity is low, so I think we would want to wait a while before making a definitive
decision.

But certainly maybe this current round of activity has peaked but it really, we are only 10 days
into this outbreak so we must wait and see.

BARBARA MILLER: To suggestions that authorities might have over-reacted the US Homeland Security
Secretary Janet Napolitano echoed the sentiments of many infectious diseases experts with this
statement:

JANET NAPOLITANO: We didn't really know what its lethality was going to be. We didn't know how
quickly it was going to move and so we had to move. Because once you get behind flu, you can't
catch up.

BARBARA MILLER: Authorities are also pointing out that the 1918 flu pandemic took a while to
develop.

WHO spokesman Gregory Hartl:

GREGORY HARTL: That pandemic started out as a very mild case of disease in the spring of 1918. The
virus almost completely, or cases of the disease, almost completely disappeared over the summer,
only to reappear in the autumn of 1918 with a vengeance which we all know.

So even though we might be seeing only mild cases now, we cannot say what will happen in the
future.

BARBARA MILLER: Swine flu, or H1N1, as it's officially referred to, may not, at least for the
moment, be declared a pandemic. But fear of the disease is still spreading.

In China, around 70 Mexican travellers were quarantined on arrival at Beijing's airport - a measure
the Mexican ambassador to China Jorge Guajardo is not at all pleased about.

JORGE GUAJARDO: I have to emphasize that the World Health Organization does not recommend this type
of actions. That no other country in the world is implementing these type of actions but Mexicans
are being targeted in China just because they have a Mexican passport.

And we would like to know an official version of what exactly Mexicans can expect in China. We have
yet to find out.

BARBARA MILLER: There's also anger in Egypt, where mainly Christian pig farmers, have clashed with
authorities over controversial plans to slaughter all the country's pigs.

In Mexico though one young couple at least was maintaining good spirits.

(Mexican man speaking)

The couple are pushing ahead with plans to get married next week.

(Mexican man speaking)

With the bridegroom joking that any guests who are not too afraid to attend, will receive a
souvenir mask, with the date of the wedding printed on it.

PETER CAVE: Barbara Miller reporting.