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Swine flu cases rise in Chile, Peru, Argentina

The number of confirmed swine flu cases in South America rose by more than two dozen on Sunday, including new cases outside the Chilean capital, where most of the country's previous detections were made.

world Updated: May 25, 2009 08:45 IST

The number of confirmed swine flu cases in South America rose by more than two dozen on Sunday, including new cases outside the Chilean capital, where most of the country's previous detections were made.

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 heads into its winter season.

The number of cases in South America remain small compared to Mexico, where the health ministry has reported 80 deaths linked to swine flu and more than 4,000 confirmed infections from the virus.

But the flu's spread in South America is being watched closely by health experts who warn that the virus could fade during the northern hemisphere's summer but reconstitute itself as a more virulent strain during winter that could kill in far greater numbers than the present epidemic.

Chile's Institute of Public Health has confirmed 19 new cases of A(H1N1) in the country to bring the total to 74, the highest number in South America, while Peru registered four new cases for a total of 25 and Argentina's case rose by three, to five total.

"Today there are 19 new cases confirmed" in Chile, the institute attached to the health department said in a report.

Among the new cases was a 13-year-old girl in Rancagua, a small city near Santiago, and a 41-year-old man in Puerto Montt, a city in the south more than 900 kilometers (550 miles) from the capital, who came in contact with a man who visited Central America and is also under observation.

Some of the newly diagnosed had been passengers on a May 16 flight to Chile from the Dominican Republican via Panama, on which Chile's first two swine flu cases were recorded.

Most Chileans stricken with the virus were experiencing only mild flu-like symptoms and were expected to recover. There have been no deaths reported in South America.

In neighboring Peru, the health ministry said that among the new cases was a 13-year-old student who contracted the virus from an infected friend who had travelled to the Dominican Republic, and an eight-year-old girl in Arequipa who had come in contact with an infected resident of the southern city.

A 15-year-old Peruvian student who had travelled to Argentina also came down with swine flu, authorities said.

"All of those infected are under medical supervision, home isolation, and are receiving antiviral treatment and are recovering well," a statement from the health ministry said.

In Argentina, Health Minister Graciela Ocana said two of the three new cases were in people returning on flights on Friday from the United States.

The total number of A(H1N1) flu cases has surpassed 12,000 worldwide, with 87 deaths, including a woman in New York who died over the weekend, health officials there said.