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Update: Death toll keeps rising in Mexican swine flu outbreak

Mexican health authorities have reported that the number of human casualties in the swine influenza outbreak has risen to over 150 and the suspected number of cases has risen to over 1600. The UN is warning of a potential pandemic.

Testing for the virus started April 13, Mexico's health secretary, Dr Jose A. Cordova Villalobos, said. "In that same period, 81 deaths were recorded probably linked to the virus but only in 20 cases we have the laboratory tests to confirm it," he said.


As a result, schools in and around Mexico City and in the state of San Luis Potosí will remain closed until May 6, to prevent further spread of the disease. Another 70% of bars and restaurants have closed, the BBC website reports.

BBC Human statistics
Mexico: 20 confirmed cases (152 suspected deaths)
United States: 50 confirmed cases
Canada: 6 confirmed cases
New Zealand: 3 confirmed cases
UK
: 2 confirmed cases
Spain: 2 confirmed cases
Israel: 1 confirmed case
Brazil, Guatemala, Peru, Australia, South Korea and seven EU states
: Suspected cases being tested



Emergency measures
Mexico's president Felipe Calderon has announced emergency measures, including powers to isolate individuals suspected of having the virus without fear of legal repercussions. Travellers' luggage may be inspected, just like houses.


The government also has the authority to prevent public gatherings, shut down public venues and regulate air, sea and overland travel. Health authorities advise the use of masks until there's clarity on how the virus is spreading. 


H1N1
Swine influenza, a respiratory disease which infects pigs and spreads through coughs and sneezes, is caused by a certain strain of type A influenza virus. At least some confirmed cases show a new version of this H1N1 swine flu sub-strain.


Human cases usually occur in those who have contact with pigs; the virus cannot be obtained through eating well-cooked pork; human-to-human transmission is rare. 


H1N1 is the same strain that causes seasonal flu outbreaks in humans, but the newly detected version contains genetic material from versions which usually affect pigs and birds. There is currently no vaccine for the new strain but severe cases can be treated with antiviral medication.



USA

In the neighbouring USA, no death tolls have been reported, but there is a growing number of cases of people having been infected by the new variety of swine influenza. A total of eleven infections has been confirmed in the states of Texas, California and Kansas. In New York City, eight children have most probably been infected.


From December 2005 through February 2009, a total of 12 human infections with a different strain of swine influenza were reported from ten states in the United States, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) reports.


New Zealand
A group of 22 students and three teachers in New Zealand is also reported to have been infected by flu, after returning from a language course in Mexico. This is 'likely', though not definitely swine influenza, according to the New Zealand health minister. In addition, returning tourists from France are reported to suffer from possible swine flu.

Click here for Swine Flu Q&A's



Related news items:

WHO: Swine flu is 'public health emergency' (26 April 2009)
US: Human swine flu cases rises to 7 (24 April 2009)
US: Human swine flu cases in California (23 April 2009)


Related websites:
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC)

BBC

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