Toll in Mexico’s flu epidemic rises to 103 (Lead)

April 27th, 2009 - 12:11 pm ICT by IANS  

Mexico City, April 27 (DPA) The number of dead in Mexico’s flu epidemic has risen to 103, Mexican Health Minister Jose Angel Cordova Villalobos said late Sunday without specifying how many among them had died of swine flu.
“It is 1,614 cases and 103 deaths,” Cordova Villalobos told the television channel Televisa.

Prior to these comments, Mexican authorities had said that 81 people had died of flu in the country, with 20 of those having been confirmed to have suffered from swine flu and the rest pending further testing.

“We are taking care of the contingency and establishing preventive actions and the distribution of medication,” Villalobos said.

The minister noted, however, that some 60 percent of the patients have “satisfactorily” recovered after suffering from a bout of the disease.

School and university lessons remained suspended in Mexico City and the adjoining state of Mexico, which is home to over 20 percent of the country’s population of 105 million.

Furthermore, attendance at weekend religious services was highly discouraged by the

authorities, and football games were played in front of empty stands.

Many people chose to stay at home, and many of those who ventured out did so with a face mask on.

“We are facing an epidemic, not so much due to the number of cases but due to the fact that we are in the presence of a mutation of the influenza virus, that is to say, a virus that is new in Mexico and in the world,” said Mexican President Felipe Calderon.

Lessons and public events were not expected to be back to normal until at least May 6, to hinder the propagation of the virus.

The flu has spread to the US, where 20 cases have been confirmed but no deaths reported, as well New Zealand.

Ten college students tested positive for porcine influenza after their return to Auckland from Mexico Saturday, and samples have been sent to a World Health Organization (WHO) laboratory in Melbourne, Australia, for confirmation that they have contracted H1N1 swine influenza.

New Zealand officials said it was “highly likely” that they do, and their families were told to stay in their homes in quarantine until further notice. None was reported to be seriously ill, and all were recovering. Health officials were trying to trace more than 300 other passengers on the overnight flight from Los Angeles carrying the students.

The WHO has declared the outbreak a “public health emergency of international concern”, a legal step that put countries around the world on alert.

Mexico is set to get $205 million from the World Bank, including $25 million immediately, to combat the epidemic.

Mexican Finance Minister Agustin Carstens said the $25 million would be used “to take care of more immediate needs”, including medicine and equipment to help contain the epidemic.

Another $180 million would come over the “medium term” to build up the country’s health institutions.

“A lot of resources are being devoted to bring under control this issue,” Carstens said in a press conference at the International Monetary Fund, which held its annual spring meetings with the World Bank this weekend in Washington.

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