Fears of a global swine flu pandemic are growing with new infections in America and Canada and millions of Mexicans hiding indoors to avoid a virus that has already killed up to 81 people.
Eight New York school children were the latest confirmed victims of swine flu in America.
Their diagnosis brought the number of confirmed cases in the United States to 20 although more were expected to emerge.
Most of the victims had recently visited Mexico, where on Sunday up to 81 people were thought to have died from the disease.
The US Department of Homeland Security has now declared a public health emergency in America.
SOUNDBITE (English): JANET NAPOLITANO, US DEPARTMENT OF HOMELAND SECURITY, SAYING:
"We need everyone in the United States to take responsibility here. If you are sick stay home, wash your hands, take all those reasonable measures that will help us mitigate and contain how many actually get sick in our country."
In Mexico City normally busy streets were virtually deserted.
Mexicans stayed in their homes, hoarding bottled water and canned food.
As Mexico City's Mayor announced 15 new deaths from the disease he had a tough message for employers.
SOUNDBITE (Spanish) MEXICO CITY MAYOR, MARCELO EBRARD, SAYING:
"Without suspending economic activity we are calling on the city's businesses to cutback as much possible on their activities. We are in a critical moment and this coming week will be critical."
Suspected cases have now been reported in numerous countries.
In Europe, Scotland, Spain and Germany are treating possible victims as are New Zealand and Canada
The World Health Organisation has called the situation "serious."
(SOUNDBITE) (English) DR. KEIJI FUKUDA, ASSISTANT DIRECTOR-GENERAL FOR HEALTH, SECURITY AND THE ENVIRONMENT AT WORLD HEALTH ORGANIZATION, SAYING:
"We are in a period where we have to be very careful to collect the best possible information. We really need to understand a bit more about the
epidemeology, we want to understand more about the behaviour of these viruses."
But the WHO insists that after avian flu scares of recent years the world is much better prepared to deal any pandemic.
And it says drugs are available to treat the disease.
Eating pork is also said to be safe.
But there are still many unknowns and more victims are expected.
Sonia Legg, Reuters.
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