By ANDREW O. SELSKY (Associated Press Writer)
From Associated PressApril 28, 2009 1:17 PM EDT
MEXICO CITY – Cuba suspended flights to and from Mexico on Tuesday, becoming the first country to impose a travel ban, as the fast-moving swine flu strain extended its reach overseas and in the United States.
World health officials in Geneva said they believed the virus appears to be establishing itself in communities and be able to produce larger outbreaks outside Mexico. In the U.S., there were new reports of hospitalizations among those affected, and officials are watching for a potential flu pandemic.
It’s a very serious possibility, but it is still too early to say that this is inevitable,” the World Health Organization’s flu chief, Dr. Keiji Fukuda, told a telephone news conference.
The global health body insisted that travel restrictions were ineffective, but Cuba’s 48-hour suspension came as the EU’s disease control agency as well as Canada, Israel and France warned against nonessential travel to Mexico.
“Border controls do not work. Travel restrictions do not work,” WHO spokesman Gregory Hartl said, recalling the 2003 SARS epidemic that killed 774 people, mostly in Asia, and slowed the global economy.