The global number of swine flu cases on Tuesday soared past 5,000, world health authorities said as the virus spread to three more countries in Europe, Asia and Latin America.
In a day of mixed updates, Mexico began pumping a billion dollars of emergency funds into its sickened economy as officials there revealed tourist cancellations had forced 25 hotels to shut in and around the resort of Cancun.
The worst-affected country outside the Americas, Spain, also reported two new confirmed cases, taking its total to 100. However, as China tracked down the last of hundreds of passengers who flew with a man confirmed as its first mainland infection, Hong Kong's health chief argued that quarantine was no longer workable.
"As local transmission becomes sustained and significant, isolation and quarantine is no longer appropriate or practicable," York Chow, the territory's health secretary, told reporters.
Around 300 guests and staff -- many Mexicans -- were held for seven days until last Friday at the Metropark hotel in Hong Kong in a move which drew international criticism. Beijing, however, was still pursuing isolation Tuesday after a 30-year-old man was hospitalised with the virus after arriving in the southwestern city of Chengdu from the United States. A municipal health official in Beijing told AFP that 78 foreigners were among those quarantined.
After the World Health Organisation insisted the outbreak of new influenza A(H1N1) last month would have been more severe had it not raised its pandemic alert two weeks ago, the total number of infections stood at 5,251, its latest data showed.
Three more countries reported their first infections Tuesday with Thailand and Finland reporting two cases each after Cuba earlier confirmed its first case in a Mexican student in Havana. The highest number of cases has been reported in the United States with the WHO citing 2,600 infections, including three deaths.
Shortly afterwards, the number of confirmed US cases jumped to more than 3,002, a key health official said. Mexico was second in the WHO league table with 2,059 cases, including 56 deaths, although the WHO had only confirmed 48 of these. Mexico also raised its death toll by two to 58, but Health Minister Jose Angel Cordova said the epidemic was waning.
"Tourist destinations are safe in Mexico, people can return calmly, we are carrying out intensive checks," he added.
Nevertheless, a report by the WHO's Rapid Pandemic Assessment Collaboration, which includes the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) scientists, estimates that 23,000 people were infected in Mexico. US health officials said their numbers also represent just the tip of the iceberg. Most of the confirmed cases in over 30 countries have proved to be treatable with antiviral drugs.
Swiss drugs giant Roche said Tuesday it was donating 5.65 million treatment courses of Tamiflu, although a WHO expert said the virus was developing resistance to the brand. The WHO's confirmed deaths reached 61 after Costa Rica reported its first fatality from the virus -- believed to be a mix of bird and human flu which came together in pigs -- and the United States confirmed a third death.
But Thai scientists who infected newborn pigs with the swine flu virus in tests reported that none of the animals died despite classic flu symptoms. The pork meat industry could also take heart from trade data which showed that Brazil's pork exports rose in April for a fifth consecutive month.
Again on a brighter note, a 25-year-old flu-ridden Spanish woman emerged from her sick bed to claim a record 126 million euros in a lottery, although it was unclear whether the strain she contracted was related.