Mexico denies hiding information on flu

May 13th, 2009 - 10:33 am ICT by IANS  

Barack Obama Mexico City/Havana, May 13 (DPA) Mexican President Felipe Calderon has said that the A(H1N1) influenza epidemic has been dealt with transparently from the first instance it became known to the country’s authorities.
Calderon did not mention Cuban leader Fidel Castro, who had accused Mexico of not telling other countries earlier about the ongoing influenza epidemic due to the visit of US President Barack Obama.

The Mexican president said Tuesday that the government “acted with determination, with promptness and with one single priority, which is and will always be to protect the health and the life of Mexicans.”

“Mexican authorities did not inform the world about the presence of the (epidemic) because they were awaiting Obama’s visit. Now they threaten to suspend President Calderon’s visit to Cuba,” Castro wrote.

Obama visited Mexico in mid-April, shortly before the swine flu outbreak caused worldwide concern.

The flu virus has claimed 58 lives in Mexico, Health Minister Jose Angel Cordova Villalobos said Tuesday, while 2,282 people have been infected.

Calderon was set to visit Cuba in mid-2009 but said that the trip might be cancelled, in a comment seen as a reaction to Havana’s actions over the flu virus.

Cuba was the first country to suspend flights to and from Mexico - five flights a day to Mexico City and Cancun - to slow the spread of the A(H1N1) virus. Argentina, Ecuador and Peru followed.

Castro, 82, wondered what Calderon “was complaining about”.

“Now we appear as unfair, not based on technical elements, a country that is hostile to the Mexican people,” Castro complained.

The Cuban health ministry confirmed late Monday the island’s first case of the new strain of flu, in a Mexican exchange student. A statement from the ministry said the infection was detected through special monitoring of Mexican students returning to Cuba after the Easter break.

“The carrier is a young Mexican citizen who studies medicine in our country,” Castro said. “The only thing we can say for now is that he was not brought in by the CIA. He came from Mexico.”

Earlier Tuesday, the World Health Organisation (WHO) stated that there were 5,251 cases of A(H1N1) influenza in 30 countries with 61 deaths.

The US reported 2,600 cases and three deaths, and Canada had 330 confirmed cases with one death.

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