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Public Health Agency of Canada issues warning against travel to Mexico

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TORONTO - Canada has joined the list of countries advising against travel to Mexico because of the swine flu outbreak.

The advisory from the Public Health Agency of Canada had been expected as officials said Monday such a warning would likely be issued. The advisory says any non-essential travel to Mexico should be postponed until further notice.

On Monday, the World Health Organization raised its pandemic alert level to Phase 4 from Phase 3, to signal the increasing severity of the situation.

But the UN agency said it still does not characterize a swine flu pandemic as inevitable.

Mexico has linked 152 deaths to swine flu infection. The U.S. has diagnosed 50 cases, Canada six, Spain one and Scotland two. New Zealand health officials announced Tuesday that 11 cases have been confirmed there.

No country outside of Mexico has yet seen severe disease caused by the virus.

But on Monday, David Butler-Jones, Canada's chief public health officer, said that could change in this country.

"We will likely see more cases. We will likely see more severe illnesses. And we will, likely - unfortunately - see some deaths, as well," he said.

Canadians who returned from Mexico on Monday were greeted by mask-wearing customs officers. Many of the passengers themselves were wearing the masks.

At Pearson International Airport passengers were handed a Health Canada pamphlet detailing information on the illness, and their pilot advised them to visit a doctor immediately if they felt sick in the next seven days.

More than one million Canadians visit Mexico each year, mostly in the winter.

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