Brazilian scientists discovered a new strain of swine flu Tuesday as the disease continued to spread in Middle Eastern countries, which reported new cases of swine flu, prompting a Saudi fatwa banning travel amid a global rise in infected cases.
Scientists at the Adolfo Lutz Bacteriological Institute in Sao Paulo announced a new swine flu mutation they called A/Sao Paulo/1454/H1N1, but have not determined whether it is more aggressive than the A(H1N1), which has infected more than 36,000 people in in 76 countries and caused 167 death.
Although pharmaceutical companies are working to produce additional vaccine for the virus, which the World Health Organization elevated to a pandemic flu, they remain months away from having enough stocks before the winter flu season hits.
Switzerland's Novartis, a major drug company, told the Financial Times it did not intend to give its vaccine away to poor countries while U.S. rival Baxter announced Tuesday it would have a H1N1 vaccine "on the shelf" by this July.
Fatwa banning travel
In the Middle East, swine flu cases continue to spread mainly from North American travelers to the region, prompting Saudi Arabia's Mufti to issue a fatwa – or religious ruling -- banning travel to and from countries with swine flu infections.
Egypt, Lebanon, the United Arab Emirates, Kuwait and Saudi Arabia authorities all reported new cases of the flu over the past two days.
Saudi Mufti Sheikh Abdel al-Aziz al-Sheikh said Tuesday that his fatwa was based on a saying by Prophet Muhammad that advised against travel to and from a country whose inhabitants were infected with the plague.
Saudi Arabia announced five new cases of the flu found in Filipino workers Wednesday, bringing the total number of infected people in the kingdom to 22. while Lebanon's cases have risen to nine with health ministry on Tuesday with two new cases, a woman coming from Canada and a man coming from Australia.
Abdel Rahman Shahin, Spokesman for Egypt's health announced Tuesday two Sudanese women and one Egyptian-American child, all coming from abroad, were the latest victims, raising the number in Egypt to 26.
New cases in Mideast
Jordan, Qatar, Oman and Yemen reported their first cases in swine flu in travelers arriving from abroad bringing the total number of people infected in the region to 90.
Jordanian Health Minister Nayef al-Fayez said Wednesday the kingdom's first two cases were two young girls coming from abroad. "Three Palestinians and a Jordanian have tested positive for swine flu bringing the total to five cases," al-Fayez told Al Arabiya.
Infections in Gulf States, a high-traffic transit zone for millions of travelers, rose to 34 after Kuwait reported its first native case on Tuesday following the 18 cases of American soldiers in the country who tested positive for swine flu last month.
Qatar reported its first three cases, two of which were young boys arrived from New York and New Zealand.
As the UAE reported its second infection, a UAE citizen arriving from the United States, officials sought to dispel rumors sent via SMS messages about infected workers at a fast-food chain.
Dr. Ali bin Shakar, director of the UAE Ministry of Health, told Al Arabiya that reports of shutting down the fast-food restaurant in Dubai for were mere rumors.
Three Palestinians and a Jordanian have tested positive for swine flu bringing the total to five cases
Nayef al Fayez, Jordanian Health Minister
Most recent developments
- Medical experts have expressed concern that the virus will likely continue to spread worldwide as flu season hits.
- In South America, five people have died of swine flu, two in Chile, one in Colombia, and recently 2 people with leukemia in Argentina's capital Buenos Aires.
- In Argentina, there are 773 cases and three new deaths.
- The figures are higher in North America, the apparent source of the pandemic.
- The United States has 17,855 confirmed cases.
- A nine-year-old boy in the U.S. died from the virus on Tuesday, bringing the death toll to 17.
- In Canada, two more died of the disease on Tuesday bringing the death toll to nine.
- Cases have risen in Central America and the Caribbean as well where 820 cases and three deaths have been registered
- The Chile’s Ministry of Health reported a surge in cases that brought the country’s total to 3,125.
- The ministry also said that the virus is expected to be easily transferred in winter, when conditions favor its circulation.
- While two have died in Chile, 77 percent have recovered while the rest require ongoing hospitalization or home treatment.
- In Buenos Aires, three more died of swine flu, bringing the total to four. The first swine flu fatality was a 3-year-old infant whose death was confirmed Monday.