MEXICO CITY – Mexican health authorities have detected almost 1,000 new cases of infection with the AH1N1 flu virus over the past five days, the federal Health Department said.
Whereas on July 30 the number of cases totaled 16,442, by Monday night that figure had risen to 17,416; swine flu thus far has claimed 146 lives in Mexico, although no fatalities stemming from the illness have been reported over the past five days.
Health authorities say they have seen a sharp rise in new cases in southeastern Mexico in recent weeks – especially in Chiapas, an impoverished state on the border with Guatemala.
Moving to head off a potential winter rise in fatalities among the country’s 107 million inhabitants, the Mexican government has ordered a shipment of 20 million vaccines, with the first 5 million due to arrive in December.
Free health care, meanwhile, is being provided for those infected by the virus regardless of whether or not the patient has health insurance.
In a bid to boost tourism, the Mexico City government is offering free medical insurance for tourists – both domestic and foreign – that covers consultations, hospital expenses, hospital accompaniment and even medical repatriation if necessary.
Mexico’s tourism industry – battered after the country became the first worldwide to experience a widespread outbreak of the new virus – is the country’s third-leading source of foreign income after oil exports and remittances.
Authorities say tourism operators were especially hard hit by a drop in visitors from Europe, but that the industry is now starting to recover.
The World Health Organization said Tuesday that through July 31 1,154 people had died of the AH1N1 virus worldwide and more than 162,380 had been infected.
The flu outbreak in Mexico started in April, with authorities responding by adopting a series of measures to halt the spread of the virus, including banning mass gatherings and closing schools. EFE