19 May 2009

Chile Confirmed 10 Cases of Swine Flu, Bachelet Says

By Sebastian Boyd and Nathan Gill
     May 19 (Bloomberg) -- Chilean health officials confirmed five new cases of swine flu today, bringing the country’s total to 10, President Michelle Bachelet told reporters in Santiago.
     The confirmed cases include three women who traveled from the Dominican Republic, and a further cluster of cases in a Santiago school that may have originated in Mexico, she said. All the patients are receiving treatment, she said.
     The five new patients confirmed today are all connected to the San Nicolas de Myra School in the Las Condes district of Santiago, according to a statement distributed by the Health Ministry by e-mail.
     Chile confirmed its first two cases of swine flu on May 17. The World Health Organization may raise its pandemic alert to its highest level, a former WHO adviser said, after Japan confirmed 33 new infections and the total worldwide rose to 9,830.
     Bachelet, a doctor, called on Chileans “to maintain calm, trust in our health system and follow recommended steps to avoid contamination.” She spoke after a meeting of an emergency sanitary outbreak control committee.
     “We have taken every measure to reduce the human, social and economic impact of this illness,” she said.
     The government sees no need for widespread school closures, Bachelet said. She asked school authorities with suspected cases to contact regional health officials. Six schools have closed because of suspected contamination, La Segunda newspaper reported today.
     Chile’s health authorities are prepared for an increase in infections, the president said. A further 17 suspected patients are undergoing tests, she said.
     Passengers on the plane that brought the virus from the Dominican Republic have since traveled on to countries including New Zealand and Argentina, Bachelet said.