Mexico flu cases easing but pandemic still likely
May 3, 2009
MEXICO CITY (Reuters) – Mexico’s flu outbreak appeared to be easing with a fall in serious cases, the government said, but world health officials warned the unpredictable virus could still become a pandemic.
“Each day there are fewer serious cases and the mortality has been decreasing,” Health Minister Jose Angel Cordova told a news conference in Mexico City, where millions were heeding government advice to stay at home.
Of the more than 100 suspected deaths from the new H1N1 virus that have emerged in Mexico, 19 had been confirmed, Cordova said. Mexico had already scaled back from its original estimate of 176 suspected deaths.
However, new cases of the mongrel virus, which mixes swine, avian and human flu strains, were still being tracked across the world. Colombia became the latest country to report a confirmed case of the disease, which has now been found in 19 countries.
In Geneva, the World Health Organization said the H1N1 influenza had not spread in a sustained way outside North America, as required before the pandemic alert is raised to its highest level. But it said that would probably happen soon.
“I would still propose that a pandemic is imminent because we are seeing the disease spread,” Michael Ryan, WHO director of Global Alert and Response, told a briefing on Saturday.
In Canada, health officials said a traveler carried the virus from Mexico to Canada and infected his family and a herd of swine.
The Canadian Food Inspection Agency said the herd had been quarantined and the safety of the food supply was not affected. But the U.N. Food and Agriculture Organization said the Canadian case was a reason for concern and confirmed the need for increased surveillance of pig farms.
Few countries are ready to take chances with the new virus, widely dubbed swine flu.