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EU health chief says don't go to swine flu areas

BRUSSELS (Reuters) - The European Union’s health chief advised travellers on Monday not to go to areas affected by swine flu.

The EU did not issue any formal instructions to travellers but said the bloc’s health ministers would discuss ways to prevent the spread of the virus later this week and that EU foreign ministers would discuss the situation later on Monday.

Swine flu has killed 103 people in Mexico and has spread to the United States. Spain has reported one case of the virus, the first to be confirmed in Europe.

“Personally, I’d try to avoid non-essential travel to the areas which are reported to be in the centre (of the crisis),” Health Commissioner Androulla Vassiliou said in a statement recorded in Luxembourg and broadcast to reporters in Brussels.

Asked for details, she said: “They should avoid travelling to Mexico or the United States unless it’s very urgent for them.”

Health experts from the EU’s 27 member states were due to meet on Monday to discuss coordinating efforts to tackle swine flu. The bloc’s foreign ministers were due to discuss the situation at a meeting in Luxembourg.

EU officials said the bloc’s health ministers would probably meet on Thursday afternoon.

“The presidency considers it of paramount importance to coordinate the EU’s response to the outbreak,” said the EU presidency, now held by the Czech Republic.

European Commission President Jose Manuel Barroso told reporters in Greece: “It’s too soon to speculate about the situation. We are following the situation very closely, together with the member states.”