China issues swine flu travel warning for Lunar New Year

BEIJING, Jan 14 (AFP) - China's health ministry has urged vulnerable groups to get swine flu vaccinations or limit travel during the upcoming Chinese Lunar New Year holiday due to the spread of the A(H1N1) virus.

"Pregnant women, children, the elderly, obese people and those with chronic diseases should avoid public travel during the peak period of Spring Festival travel," the ministry said in a statement posted on its website late Wednesday.

Such vulnerable groups should also get swine flu vaccinations and steer clear of crowded public places and people showing obvious flu symptoms, it said.

The ministry also urged for prevention measures to be stepped up, including wearing face masks, frequently washing hands and getting early medical checkups for coughs and other flu symptoms, it said.

Tens of millions of people are expected to pack into trains, planes and buses during the upcoming Lunar New Year travel period when Chinese return to their hometowns and villages for annual family reunions.

This year's travel period extends from January 30 to March 10. Lunar New Year's Day, or the start of the traditional Spring Festival, falls on February 14.

Last week, the ministry announced it had recorded 659 swine flu deaths in China in 2009, nearly all of them in the last two months of the year, and warned that the danger of mass outbreaks still existed in certain areas.

The total number of A(H1N1) infections recorded in 2009 stood at 120,940, it said.

At the end of October, the reported death toll stood at just six. The number of recorded deaths then spiked, reaching about 180 at the start of December and 659 by the end of the month.

On Wednesday, the ministry said it had recorded 2,173 new cases of the swine flu and 51 deaths due to the disease from January 4 to 10.

MySinchew 2010.01.14