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New swine flu cases in Chile, Ecuador, as Mexico toll rises

world Updated: May 21, 2009 10:17 IST

Chile has become the South American country with the highest number of swine flu cases in South America, health authorities said on Wednesday, as Mexican officials increased the death toll of A(H1N1) flu virus to 75.

While Mexico has been the epicenter of the swine flu outbreak, health authorities expect the number of swine flu cases to rise in the southern hemisphere over the next months as the region enters its fall and winter seasons.

There are 24 confirmed swine flu cases in Chile, the health ministry said, more than double the ten reported on Tuesday.

The number of cases in South America remain small compared to Mexico, where the health ministry reported 150 new cases, bringing their total to 3,817.

In South America, the second largest number of A(H1N1) flu virus cases was reported in Colombia, with 12, seven of which were blamed on cases coming from abroad.

In Chile, the majority of cases are children from private Santiago schools located in well-off neighborhoods, the health ministry said.

Twelve schools in Santiago closed down as a precaution, despite pleas by health authorities. Suspending classes "has no justification," said Chilean Health Minister Alvaro Erazo.

Ecuador reported the number of swine flu cases there rose to eight on Wednesday.

The first case was confirmed on Friday in a boy that had returned from the United States, said Health Minister Caroline Chang, who warned of possible new cases linked to travelers arriving from North America.

Six of those infected are children and two are adults, including a female foreign passenger who entered Ecuador days ago and is quarantined in Quito, Chang said. Seven of the cases were found in the port city of Guayaquil, she said.

Ecuadoran authorities also are looking at 213 possible swine flu cases, and ordered the closure of four schools in Guayaquil, Chang said.

In Peru, the government confirmed two new cases, bringing their caseload to five.

Three cases are of teens who returned from vacation in the Dominican Republic, which has not reported any swine flu cases. The other two were adults returning from the United States, the health ministry said.

While flights between Peru and Mexico have resumed after being temporarily halted, officials have ordered the 5,000 employees at Lima's international airport to wear face masks and rubber gloves.

In Guatemala, authorities confirmed what they said was the first swine flu case in a victim who had no links to anyone who had traveled abroad, bringing the number of cases there to four.

The 75 year-old woman lives in the town of San Marcos, some 280 kilometers (174 miles) west of the capital Guatemala City, where the other three cases were detected.

In Cuba, authorities reported four swine flue cases, the latest a 14 month-old Canadian boy who arrived with his parents from Toronto.

The boy is responding well to treatment, and the three other cases - Mexican medical students - have already been released and are back in school, the Health Ministry said.

Worldwide, the number of swine flu infections surged past 10,000 on Wednesday, as the epidemic gathered pace in the United States.

The World Health Organization has confirmed a total of 80 deaths, all of them in the Americas.