Page last updated at 11:22 GMT, Wednesday, 24 June 2009 12:22 UK

Argentine swine flu deaths hit 17

Mexico's deputy health minister on how his country dealt with swine flu

Argentine health officials say seven more people have died from swine flu, bringing the number of deaths to 17.

All the fatalities have been in the capital and the province of Buenos Aires, the health ministry said.

It is currently winter in Argentina, where 1,294 cases have been reported, and Chile, which has seen some 5,000 cases and seven deaths.

The spread of swine flu in the region is being closely watched for lessons for the northern hemisphere winter.

On 11 June, the World Health Organization declared a global flu pandemic, meaning that the swine flu (H1N1) virus was spreading in at least two regions of the world.

Officials stressed that this did not mean the virus was causing more severe illness or more deaths.

According to the latest figures from the WHO, there have been 231 deaths and 52,160 cases in some 100 countries and territories.

People in Buenos Aires wear masks as they wait for treatment on 18 June
Symptoms usually similar to seasonal flu
It is a new version of the H1N1 strain which caused the 1918 flu pandemic
Current treatments do work, but as yet there is no vaccine
Good personal hygiene, such as washing hands, covering nose when sneezing advised

The Argentine health ministry reported the rise in the death toll on Tuesday. More people have died of swine flu in Argentina than any other country in South America.

Measures to prevent and control the spread of the H1N1 virus would continue, the ministry said.

Buenos Aires health chief Nestor Perez Balino told local media that some non-urgent operations were being postponed to free up hospital beds.

But he said the situation regarding the H1N1 virus was no more worrying than seasonal flu, and that patients who had died had suffered other medical complications.

Swine flu "is very infectious but no more virulent than regular flu", he said.


The H1N1 virus first emerged in April in Mexico, which has recorded 113 deaths and 7,624 cases, according to the WHO.

In an interview with the BBC, Mexican Deputy Health Minister Mauricio Hernandez Avila said his country was prepared for the outbreak, having had a plan in place for four or five years to deal with a pandemic.

"We took 10 days from the (first) case to alert the world that we were seeing a new virus," he said.

"We did, I think, a remarkable good job in...preparing the world for this event."

The Mexican authorities are hosting an international summit on swine flu in Cancun next month.

Chilean President Michelle Bachelet, who has been visiting Washington, was due to hold talks with officials from the Pan American Health Organization. She is set to travel later on Wednesday to Mexico.

Her country has seen cases of swine flu rise to 5,186 - the most in South America - and reported seven deaths, according to the health ministry.

Last week, the Chilean government stepped up measures to deal with the outbreak.

Worldwide, the US, which has seen 87 deaths, has reported the most cases with 21,449.

Canada has seen 15 deaths and 6,457 cases, according to the Canadian health ministry.

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