Airlines and airports respond to swine flu outbreak

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Airports around the world are now screening passengers for flu-like symptoms and airlines have eased restrictions on people wishing to delay trips to Mexico, the centre of the swine flu virus outbreak that threatens the adversely affect international passenger traffic.

News reports around the globe quote various government agencies as saying airports have started to screen passengers for flu-like symptoms in an effort to contain the spread of the virus.

The World Health Organisation has warned the virus has the potential to develop into a pandemic.

Mexico's health minister Jose Angel Cordova has just told journalists the number of deaths in Mexico has risen to 103 from 81 and there are 1614 cases of swine flu in the country with about 400 of those people now in hospital.

There are also 20 confirmed cases in the USA and suspected cases in France, Spain, Israel, New Zealand and the UK.

But the British Airways cabin steward who was admitted to a London hospital with flu-like symptoms, after arriving on a flight from Mexico City, has been cleared following tests that showed he was negative for the virus.

Airlines have so far refrained from cancelling flights to Mexico but US Airways and others have decided to make it easier for passengers to change tickets booked for Mexico.

This new strain of virus, that infects humans and pigs, threatens to adversely affect demand for international passenger services, the same way the SARS outbreak did in 2003.