MADRID (AP) — The top EU health official urged Europeans on Monday to postpone nonessential travel to parts of the United States and Mexico because of the swine flu virus.
A young man in Spain and two people in Scotland have come down with swine flu following trips to Mexico, health officials said, in what were the first cases reported outside North America. The World Health Organization said it is still awaiting official reports from the U.K. about the Scottish cases.
Russia, Hong Kong and Taiwan said they would quarantine visitors showing symptoms of the virus amid a surging global concern about a possible pandemic.
European and U.S. markets bounced back from early losses as pharmaceutical stocks were lifted by expectations that health authorities will increase stockpiles of anti-viral drugs. The stocks of airlines, hotels and other travel-related companies posted sharper losses.
The virus was suspected in up to 103 deaths in Mexico, the epicenter of the outbreak with more than 1,600 cases suspected, while 40 cases — none fatal — were confirmed in the United States and six in Canada, the WHO said.
"Today we've seen increased number of confirmed cases in several countries," WHO spokesman Paul Garwood told The Associated Press. "WHO is very concerned about the number of cases that are appearing, and the fact that more and more cases are appearing in different countries."
President Barack Obama said the threat of spreading infections is cause for concern but "not a cause for alarm."
The WHO set its pandemic alert level at level 3, which means there is an animal virus that occasionally causes human cases but that doesn't spread well between people. If the WHO raises it to 4 or 5, that signals that the swine flu virus is becoming increasingly adept at spreading between humans. That move could lead governments to set trade, travel and other restrictions aimed at limiting the disease's spread.