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Recession and flu show borderless world

The flow of capital and travelers across international borders has accelerated in recent years, presenting new challenges.

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People walk on Mexico City's Zocalo Plaza Thursday. Mexico began shutting down parts of its economy to slow the spread of the H1N1 virus, also known as swine flu, as officials urged increased worldwide precautions. With its tourism industry savaged, shoppers staying home and exports to the US in steep decline, Mexico could find itself in the longest, deepest recession it has seen in years, according to analysts

Eliana Aponte/REUTERS

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First, it was toxic financial assets. Now, it is a new kind of flu virus. For many nations, the lesson learned may be the same: In today's interconnected world, borders offer only a false sense of security against modern varieties of contagion.

Last fall some governments, particularly in the less-developed world, thought their economies were decoupled from that of the US, and that they therefore might escape the effects of the US financial meltdown. For the most part, they were wrong.

Now authorities around the world are facing the question of whether to restrict travel or close borders to try to isolate themselves from the H1N1 virus, also known as swine flu. Given the ubiquity of modern air travel, and the course of the outbreak, hard restrictions just won't work, say experts in the US.

"There's no utility to closing the border," said secretary of Homeland Security Janet Napolitano on a Thursday webcast coproduced by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the Department of Health and Human Services.

International cooperation required

Movement between nations needs to continue in part because items used to help fight the flu come from many places around the globe, say officials. Like the recession currently gripping the world, the H1N1 virus is a global problem, and fighting it is an international effort.

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