by VR Sreeraman on  July 22, 2009 at 11:37 AM General Health News
 No Respite From Swine Flu In Central, South America
Chile announced that the country's death toll from swine flu has risen from 40 to 68, as the virus cuts deeper across Latin America where hundreds of deaths have been linked to the pandemic.

"There have been 68 deaths associated with the new human influenza A(H1N1) virus," Chile's Health Ministry said in a statement.

Last week, Health Secretary Jeanette Vega predicted Chile was nearing the end of a wave of cases associated with the southern hemisphere's winter season, despite 11,293 confirmed cases of infection.

On Monday, Argentina announced 168 confirmed fatalities associated with the virus, becoming the world's second worst-affected country, behind only the United States, where 263 people have died of swine flu.

Elsewhere in the region, the death tolls were smaller, but continuing to grow.

Government statements issued Tuesday put the death toll at 20 in Uruguay, while Venezuela registered two deaths.

In Brazil, authorities said the number of deaths rose by five to 20, and the Rio de Janeiro municipality said it was concerned about a lack of personnel and resources to combat the spread of the virus.

"We have this problem because of preexisting issues with basic healthcare," said Mayor Eduardo Paes.

In Peru, authorities reported the deaths of a one-year-old and an eight-month-old baby in connection with swine flu. Both infants had other health concerns but were also infected with A(H1N1). Their deaths Tuesday raised the country's toll to 14.

Ongoing concerns about the virus forced the cancellation of a 227-year-old traditional pilgrimage in Costa Rica, where 12 people have died from the flu and authorities have confirmed 560 cases of infections.

The Ministry of Health and the Catholic Church in the country agreed to suspend the annual pilgrimage for devotees of the Virgin of Los Angeles.

Each year, some two million people walk to Cartago, the country's first capital, to pay religious tribute, but authorities fear up to 20,000 people could contract swine flu if the pilgrimage goes ahead.

The unprecedented cancellation prompted a statement from Costa Rican President Oscar Arias, who called for understanding and said it had been a "very difficult and painful decision."

Source: AFP

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