MADRID (AP) — The European Union urged Europeans on Monday to postpone nonessential travel to the United States and Mexico because of the swine flu virus, and Spanish health officials confirmed the first case outside North America.
China, Russia and Taiwan said it would quarantine visitors showing symptoms of the virus amid a surging global concern about a possible pandemic.
World stock markets fell as investors worried that the deadly outbreak could go global and derail any global economic recovery. Airlines took the brunt of the selling.
The virus was suspected in up to 103 deaths in Mexico, the epicenter of the outbreak with more than 1,600 cases suspected, while 20 cases were confirmed in the United States and six in Canada.
In Luxembourg, EU Health Commissioner Andorra Vassiliou urged Europeans to postpone nonessential travel to the United States and Mexico "unless it is very urgent for them."
A top German holiday tour operator said it was suspending charter flights to Mexico City.
"These are early days. It's quite clear that there is a potential for this virus to become a pandemic and threaten globally," World Health Organization spokesman Peter Cordingley told AP Television News.
"But we honestly don't know," he added. "We don't know enough yet about how this virus operates. More work needs to be done."
Spanish Health Minister Trinidad Jimenez said the country's first confirmed swine flu case was a young man in the town of Almansa who recently returned from Mexico for university studies and is responding well to treatment. Neither he nor any of the 20 other people under observation for the virus are in serious condition.
Three New Zealanders recently home from Mexico were suspected of having swine flu. Israel has put two people under observation, while France and Brazil have also reported suspected cases.