Number of Flu Victims Rises in Mexico as Shutdown Takes Effect

MEXICO (RPRN) 5/01/2009–Mexican authorities say 40 more people have tested positive for the H1N1 swine flu virus, bringing the number of confirmed cases in the country to 300. The number of confirmed cases includes 12 deaths.

Schools, businesses and non-essential government offices will be closed for five days, beginning Friday, in an effort to contain the outbreak. President Felipe Calderon is also urging people to stay home during the Cinco de Mayo holiday.

In a related development, the United States has announced plans to purchase an additional 13 million courses of flu medicine to add to the national stockpile of treatments for the virus.

Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius said Thursday that 400,000 of the 13 million additional treatments will be sent to Mexico, the epicenter of the influenza outbreak.

The United States already has more than 70 million courses of antiviral drugs stockpiled across the country.

The U.S. has confirmed 109 cases, including the only death recorded outside of Mexico, a Mexican toddler visiting the the border state of Texas.

Some U.S. cities are closing schools, but the government is not closing borders and is encouraging people to travel inside the country as usual unless they are experiencing flu-like symptoms.

The flu has not reached pandemic proportions, but the WHO is asking all countries to combat the spreading virus with “increased urgency.”

European Union ministers held emergency talks on the crisis Thursday in Luxembourg. Ministers from the Association of Southeast Asian Nations plan to meet next week to coordinate their response.

The virus has also been reported in Austria, Britain, Canada, Germany, Israel, Spain, New Zealand, Netherlands and Switzerland. Authorities are investigating suspected cases in Australia, colombia, France, Denmark, Japan and South Korea.