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Texas toddler first swine flu death outside Mexico

A 23-MONTH-OLD Texas child was the first US death from the new swine flu virus, a top US health official confirmed to CBS on today.

"Unfortunately this morning I do have to confirm that we have the first death of a child from H1N1 flu virus. And this is in Texas, a 23-month-old child," Dr. Richard Besser, acting head of the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, told the CBS "Early Show."

At the same time, Austria's health ministry has confirmed the country's first case of swine flu.

The ministry says a laboratory test shows that a 28-year-old woman had contracted the virus but that she is recovering.

Officials previously said the woman recently returned from a trip to Guatemala via Mexico City.

The ministry also said today that two new suspected cases have surfaced.

Also today, New Zealand confirmed more swine flu cases today and Australia toughened detention rules for people suspected of being infected, as Asian nations still free of the virus prepared for the worst but hoped for the best.

New Zealand's number of swine flu cases rose to 14, health officials said, and broadened to include one person who was not among a school group who recently returned from Mexico, the epicenter of the outbreak that is spreading around the world.

They were the first confirmed cases in the Asia region.

New Zealand Health Minister Tony Ryall said World Health Organization lab tests in Australia had confirmed three cases of swine flu among members of the school group who showed flu symptoms, and that officials had decided that was evidence enough to assume all of them were infected.

Senior regional health official Dr. Julia Peters said today that the tally had risen to 14 overnight because two more students in the group and another traveler who recently returned from North America were also believed to be infected.

"We should assume it is swine flu among the 14 cases identified," Peters told reporters. All 14 were responding well to treatment with antiviral drugs and were in voluntary quarantine at home.

New Zealand has 44 other possible cases, with tests under way.

Officials say the swine flu strain infecting the New Zealand students is the same as the one that is thought to have killed more than 150 people and sickened thousands more in Mexico.

In Australia, officials were testing more than 100 people with flu symptoms for possible swine flu. The new virus has been ruled out in at least 10 cases.

Australian Health Minister Nicola Roxon said the government had increased the powers of the health authorities to try to contain contagious diseases.

The new powers ranged from "using disinfectants on planes or at ports through to the far more extreme ... making sure that people are isolated and perhaps detained if they don't cooperate and are showing symptoms of this disease," Roxon said today.

Australia also prepared to roll out thermal scanners in eight major airports to take the temperature of passengers arriving from North America, and was printing cards to be distributed to passengers on incoming flights asking them to declare if they have flu-like symptoms.

Sports officials ordered Olympic diving champion Matthew Mitcham to return to Australia from a meet in Mexico City because of swine flu fears.

In Cambodia, Prime Minister Hun Sen called for an urgent summit of Southeast Asian leaders to battle the onset of swine flu.

"We need common measures to prevent and fight against the fast spread of swine flu," Hun Sen said. "Southeast Asian leaders should have an emergency meeting right now" that includes health, agriculture and other relevant ministers.

The secretary general of the 10-nation Association of Southeast Asian Nations, Surin Pitsuwan, said in a statement that officials have "the necessary experience" after coping with outbreaks of SARS and bird flu to coordinate as "swine flu threatens to spread to the region."

No cases have been confirmed in Southeast Asia, but scores of tests have already been carried out on people reporting flu symptoms.

South Koreans officials said they are testing five people with flu-like symptoms for possible swine flu, and were still waiting today for the final results of tests on a 51-year-old woman they said was a "probable" case.

In Malaysia, Health Minister Liow Tiong Lai said one person was "under close observation" for swine flu but it is not a suspected case yet because lab tests were still being done.

Liow said the Southeast Asian country has stockpiled multi-strain flu vaccines for 2 million people, and would administer some of them to 200,000 doctors, nurses, police and immigration officials who might come into first contact with the virus.

International health officials say a specific vaccine for swine flu does not exist yet.

Elsewhere across Asia, anyone reporting flu symptoms were being tested, and antiviral drugs were being handed out as a precaution.

ASEAN said it was ready to quickly tap its emergency stockpile of 1 million courses of Tamiflu and Relenza.

Health authorities say antiviral drugs such as Tamiflu and Relenza appear to be effective in combating swine flu if the treatment is given early enough.


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