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Slovakia prepares for novel flu virus

THE NOVEL flu virus, also known as swine flu, which by April 27 was thought to have killed at least 150 people in Mexico, has now appeared in Europe - but had not reached Slovakia as of April 29.

THE NOVEL flu virus, also known as swine flu, which by April 27 was thought to have killed at least 150 people in Mexico, has now appeared in Europe - but had not reached Slovakia as of April 29.

The Ministry of Foreign Affairs has advised Slovak citizens not to travel to Mexico. If they decide to travel anyway, they are advised to avoid those territories most affected by the virus, which are currently Mexico City and México and San Luis Potosí states, the SITA newswire reported.

“We are informing the public, travel agencies and physicians that those who have returned from these areas should visit a doctor for the sake of prevention,” Health Minister Richard Raši said, as quoted by the Sme daily.

The World Health Organization (WHO) raised its pandemic alert level for the swine flu virus to phase 4, indicating a significantly increased risk of a pandemic – i.e. a global outbreak of a serious disease - the Reuters newswire reported. The last such outbreak, a so-called Hong Kong flu pandemic in 1968, killed about 1 million people.

Although the new flu strain has so far killed people only in Mexico, there have been more than 90 confirmed cases in the United States, including 20 at a New York City school where eight cases had already been identified, Reuters wrote.

Slovak authorities have not taken any special measures yet. The Ministry of Health announced that Slovakia’s pandemic commission will meet on April 30 at the earliest, after the return of Minister Raši and Chief Hygienist of the Slovak Republic Ivan Rovný from meetings of EU health ministers, Sme wrote.

According to Raši, Slovakia has at its disposal almost 700,000 doses of anti-viral medication which could be used against swine flu.

The drugs are stored in the state reserves for use by vulnerable groups.

The Office of State Material Reserves has reported that it has sufficient reserves of Tamiflu, an anti-viral treatment, as well as protective face masks, Sme reported.

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