MONTEVIDEO – Uruguayan Deputy Health Minister Cristina Lustemberg reported on Wednesday in a press conference that four people have died in the South American country from the Type A H1N1 swine flu strain.
She said that Uruguay is suffering an outbreak of the flu because of the cold temperatures brought by the Southern Hemisphere’s autumn weather besetting the country.
National health director Jorge Quian, who was present at the press conference, said that currently there are 50 people being treated in hospitals for respiratory infections around the country and 80 percent of them could be suffering from the H1N1 flu virus.
Lustemberg announced that the Public Health Ministry will buy 100,000 doses of flu vaccine to add to the 500,000 doses imported to date. She added that about 305,000 of these doses have already been administered.
The high-risk groups include children between 6 months and five years old, adults whose immune systems are compromised, people over 65 years of age, pregnant women and health personnel.
Meanwhile, earlier on Wednesday the Uruguayan government sought to project “calm” to the public over the advance of the Type A and H1N1 flu viruses after five people were admitted to intensive therapy and one woman apparently died of the flu even though she was not in the high-risk group.
Quian told reporters on Wednesday that a 30-year-old woman succumbed to the flu, although it has not yet been confirmed whether or not it was the H1N1 strain.
“We greatly regret the death of this young lady, but we’re basically concerned because it seems that the circulation of the ... H1N1 flu virus is taking on epidemic characteristics,” Quian said.
The five people hospitalized in intensive care due to the H1N1 flu strain all belong to high-risk groups, particularly people over 65 years old and with comorbidities such as cardiac disease and obesity. There is also a sixth patient who is being studied to determine whether or not H1N1 is involved.
However, the virus “along with others that are circulating at this time in the country has comprised ... between 12-20 percent of the hospitalizations for respiratory infections,” he said.
He said that – besides cough, cold symptoms and body aches, flu sufferers also show “extreme fatigue, exhaustion and a fever of 40-41 C (104-106 F).”
“The most important thing, it seems to me, it to transmit calm. The flu is a relatively common illness ... in winter. On this occasion there have been serious H1N1 cases, but the greater portion of the cases will surely not be serious. So, we have to convey calm,” the health director said.
In 2009, Uruguay suffered an H1N1 epidemic that killed more than 20 people.