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Swine flu spreads in Latin America

world Updated: May 19, 2009 09:14 IST

Mexico's swine flu death toll rose by two to 70, health authorities said Monday, while the number of cases reached 59 in Panama and cases in Peru and Chile rose to three and five respectively.

In Mexico, the epicenter of the outbreak, there were 3,576 confirmed infections on Monday, the health minister said, noting that the A(H1N1) virus was on the wane.

Only six of the deceased had developed symptoms of the virus after April 23, Jose Angel Cordova said, while authorities focused on prevention in specific areas where new cases had been reported.

In Panama, authorities said they were confident that their 59 cases were under control.

"Up to now no patients have been hospitalized," the ministry said, adding that they are quarantined at their homes and are being attended by health ministry personnel.

Most of the victims live in Panama City, the ministry said. It also said that all schools that had been temporarily closed due to the flu were re-opening.

In Chile, three new cases of swine flu were detected, raising the total number of people found carrying the virus to five.

The victims are two children, ages six and eight, who go to the same school in Santiago, and a woman who arrived on a flight from the Dominican Republic with a layover in Panama.

The first two cases detected in Chile were of two women who arrived aboard that same Copa Airlines flight 437 from Panama.

The three women from the airplane are now hospitalized in isolation at Santiago hospitals and are in good condition, authorities said, while the children were responding well to treatment at home.

Authorities contacted the other 107 passengers aboard the flight, but three who presented symptoms were found to not have the A(H1N1) virus.

Health authorities have said they expect the number of A(H1N1) flu cases to rise in the southern hemisphere over the next months as the region enters its fall and winter seasons.

In Peru, health authorities confirmed the country's third swine flu case in a woman who flew in from the Dominican Republic.

The patient - whose nationality they declined to reveal - is responding well to treatment, Peru's health ministry said.

It represents "the third imported case of the new influenza H1N1 virus," the ministry said.

The first case in Peru was announced on May 14 in a 27-year-old Peruvian woman who arrived in Lima on a flight from New York.

On Sunday the health ministry confirmed a second case of the virus in a patient just back from the United States who resides in the southern city of Arequipa.

More than 8,800 swine flu cases have been confirmed in 40 countries since the virus first emerged in Mexico and the United States a month ago.

The swine flu has also killed six people in the United States, while Costa Rica and Canada have each reported one death due to the flu.