Swine flu spreads to Venezuela, Paraguay

Agence France-Presse

Posted at May 29 2009 10:50 AM | Updated as of May 29 2009 06:50 PM

CARACAS - Venezuela and Paraguay reported their first cases of swine flu on Thursday, as the number of A(H1N1) infections rose across South America, including in Chile, Argentina, and Brazil.

Experts have said they expect the number of cases to increase in South America as the region enters the fall and winter seasons.

Mexico, where the swine flu death toll reached 95 on Thursday, remains the epicenter of the outbreak. The number of cases there is currently at 4,879, the health ministry said.

The United States has 15 swine flut deaths, Canada two and Costa Rica one, but no fatalities have been reported in the southern hemisphere.

The confirmed Venezuelan case was that of a 22 year-old man who recently traveled to Panama, Health Minister Jesus Mantilla said.

"This citizen was initially isolated at the health center he visited" after showing flu-like symptoms, said Mantilla, speaking on VTV state television.

Since "this is an imported case, there is no cause for alarm in the general population," he said.

The patient has since been quarantined at home and the rest of the 80 passengers aboard the flight have been tested, Mantilla said.

In Paraguay, the health ministry confirmed five A(H1N1) cases, all in people who came into contact with a woman who had returned from a trip to New York. The patients are now all healthy, officials said.

Two countries -- Uruguay and the Dominican Republic in the Caribbean -- each reported their first two confirmed cases of swine flu on Wednesday.

Meanwhile, Chile remains the South American country with the highest number of confirmed cases, at 199. Yet of those "only two are gravely ill," the health ministry said in a statement.

Since the virus is already well established, Chilean officials said there was no need to continue sanitary checks at ports of entry, or scan people entering at Santiago's international airport for fever.

In Argentina, officials said that the number of confirmed swine flu cases reached 70. The largest group of cases was school children in Buenos Aires, authorities said.

In Colombia, the National Institute of Health raised the number of cases to 17, the most recent being a woman who recently visited the Mexican resort town of Cancun.

And in Brazil, the health ministry said four new cases were detected, raising the country's total to 14, including eight who have already recovered.

The new cases were linked to four people who had traveled to the United States, officials said.

Both Peru and Ecuador reported Thursday that the number of cases reached 35 in each country, with Ecuador adding that some 500 suspected cases were being investigated.

In Central America, Honduras reported a second swine flu case, Health Minister Carlos Aguilar said. The person had visited the United States, Aguilar said.