Manny Pacquiao has been ordered to delay his triumphant return to the Philippines as a precaution against the spread of swine flu from the United States.
The boxing sensation cemented his status as a national hero with a dramatic two-round knockout of Britain’s Ricky Hatton in Las Vegas on Saturday night. He was due to return home ahead of a “national day of celebration” on Friday, but that will now have to wait. The Philippines health secretary on Wednesday offered Pacquiao one of two options: Stay in Los Angeles, where he went with his family after his victory. Or return home and immediately go into self-quarantine. “He requested a home quarantine for Manny Pacquiao to stay where he is right now for another five days upon the advice of the country representative of the World Health Organization,” said Dr. Eric Tayag, director of the country’s national epidemiology center. “And after five days, if he doesn’t have any signs or symptoms, he and his entourage can travel.” The virus has an incubation period of seven days. Symptoms of swine flu are not apparent during the incubation period, and a seemingly healthy-looking person can pass it on during that time. The Filipino government is concerned that the Pacquiao motorcade could spread the virus to someone in the crowd during the rally if any one in his entourage is infected.
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The Philippines has not reported any confirmed cases of the H1N1 virus. But officials there are worried about the number of cases of the virus confirmed in California. By Wednesday, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) had reported 49 confirmed cases in the state out of a total of 403 cases in 38 states. Pacquiao told Filipino reporters he will make a decision by Thursday morning. The “Pacman” has become the hottest property in world boxing, with massive interest in his home country backed up by a growing following in the United States. CNN reported that a potential match-up with returning Floyd Mayweather Jr. would likely be the biggest grossing fight in ring history.
It is a far cry from his early years where he grew up poor in the General Santos City in the southern Philippines. Such is his following, Pacquiao has toyed with the idea of entering politics, but for now is concentrating his efforts on retaining his status as the best pound for pound boxer in the world.