Angered with treatment, Mexico exits China fair

MEXICO CITY — Mexico’s government on Sunday called China’s treatment of its citizens unacceptable and said it would not participate in a Shanghai trade fair in a dispute over anti-swine flu measures adopted by the Asian giant.

Already angered by China’s quarantining of dozens of Mexican travelers, flight cancelations and a ban on its pork imports, Mexican officials said China had withdrawn Mexico’s “guest of honor” status at the May 19-21 food fair.

It was part of a wider series of snubs by many nations that has left Mexico — once the epicenter of the swine flu epidemic, but now surpassed in total cases by the United States — feeling unfairly singled out.

“The recently adopted measures by fair organizers and the Chinese government are unacceptable,” said a statement from ProMexico, the government’s agency that promotes foreign trade. Thirty Mexican companies had planned to participate.

Mexico reported Sunday that 13 Mexicans remained in quarantine in China and one in Singapore. Last week Mexico chartered a flight to bring home dozens of its citizens from China, but it was unclear if the Mexicans mentioned Sunday had been placed under restrictions since the flight.

The Mexican protests came as China confirmed its first case of swine flu on the mainland.

An official with the Chinese Center for Disease Control and Prevention said the 30-year-old patient is in stable condition. The official, who spoke on condition of anonymity citing standard practice, says 130 other people from the patient’s flight have been quarantined. The patient, surnamed Bao, was studying at the University of Missouri.

China has been accused in the past of not acting quickly enough to combat the spread of diseases, especially the 2003 global outbreak of SARS. Chastened by that experience and subsequent threats from avian flu, the government this time acted quickly and strongly in trying to block an outbreak, but some of its measures have been criticized as excessive.

China defended the steps as necessary to keep swine flu out of the world’s most populous nation. Mexican officials protested that their citizens were singled out based solely on their nationality, noting dozens were quarantined when they arrived whether or not they had been in contact with sick people or even if they had not been in their homeland during the flu outbreak.

Meanwhile, the number of swine flu-related deaths outside Mexico inched up to five with the United States reporting its third fatality and Costa Rica its first, both involving men who also had underlying illnesses.

The number of confirmed cases of the infection in the United States has risen to 2,532 in 44 states, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reported Sunday.

The U.S. man was not further identified. He began showing symptoms on April 30, and was treated with anti-viral medication. Dr. Gary Goldbaum, Snohomish Health District medical director, said medical officials hadn’t been able to isolate any “risk factors” for the man to identify where he might have been exposed.

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