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UN fears overuse of flu-fighting drugs

WITH swine flu still spreading, the United Nations health agency is warning countries to limit their use of antiviral drugs to only high-risk patients to ensure adequate supplies in case the virus should mutate and become more dangerous.

The global outbreak appears mild, but skittishness is evident. Not long after Switzerland lifted its advisory against travel to Mexico and the United States on Tuesday, the Japanese national women's soccer team canceled a tour to North America, where most swine flu cases have been reported.

In Mexico's Baja California state, 5,689 children were turned away from schools when classes resumed on Monday because they had runny noses, headaches or sore throats.

Four more nations, Cuba, Thailand, Finland and Belgium, reported their first confirmed swine flu cases, all in people who had traveled to Mexico.

There are now 34 countries reporting an estimated total of 6,258 confirmed swine flu cases, including 3,352 in the United States, 2,282 in Mexico and 358 in Canada.

The death total is relatively low - 63, of which 58 were in Mexico, three in the US, one in Canada and one in Costa Rica.

But health experts worry about the chance that the virus might become more lethal in the coming months, saying it is important not to overuse antiviral drugs since supplies are limited. The World Health Organization said on Tuesday that antiviral drugs should be given only to patients most at risk.

Its comments appeared aimed at European countries, which have been using antiviral drugs more aggressively than the US and Mexico.


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