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More Swine Flu Cases in US, Death Toll Rises in Mexico


Mexico has raised the number of suspected deaths from swine flu virus to 159, while the number of swine flu cases in the United States has risen to at least 65.

Mexican Health Minister Jose Cordova said late Tuesday there are 26 confirmed cases of swine flu, including seven deaths. He says just over 1,300 people with symptoms of the virus remain hospitalized.

Authorities in New York City Tuesday said an outbreak of swine flu there may have spread beyond a Catholic preparatory school where dozens of students fell ill after returning from a trip to Mexico. Students at two other schools have also fallen ill.

The Los Angeles Times says the local coroner's office has concluded that two flu-related deaths in the Los Angeles area do not appear to be linked to swine flu. California, which borders Mexico, has 11 confirmed cases of swine flu and has declared a state of emergency to address the outbreak.

But Richard Besser, the acting director of the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, told reporters he expects there will be some fatalities from the virus. In comparison, the CDC estimates that on average about 36,000 people die of seasonal flu and flu-related causes in the United States each year.

The U.S. has declared a public health emergency to allow authorities to spend federal money and release stockpiles of anti-viral medication. President Barack Obama has asked Congress to provide $1.5 billion to fight swine flu.

In Germany, the Bavarian Health Ministry has confirmed the country's first case of swine flu. Other countries with confirmed cases include Britain, Canada, Costa Rica, Israel, Spain and New Zealand. Australia, France, Denmark and South Korea are among nations investigating possible cases.

The U.S. and Britain have urged their citizens to avoid all non-essential travel to Mexico, where many people are wearing face masks as a precaution and schools are closed until next week. Restaurants, movie theaters and sports stadiums have also been shut down.

Although Mexico is the epicenter of the outbreak, Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano says the U.S. focus is not on closing the border or conducting exit screening. She said the focus is on mitigation, and that a special task force is being created to deal with the outbreak.

Scientists are working to develop a vaccine to contain the spread of the highly contagious respiratory disease that is a combination of pig, human and bird viruses.

The World Health Organization says symptoms are generally similar to seasonal flu, but that cases have ranged broadly from mild infections to severe pneumonia resulting in death. WHO has raised its flu pandemic alert level, saying the likelihood of a pandemic has increased, although it is not a certainty

The number of swine flu cases across the United States has risen to at least 65, as governments around the world intensify steps to battle the outbreak that has killed scores of people in Mexico.

The White House Tuesday said President Barack Obama has asked Congress to provide $1.5 billion to fight swine flu, while the state of California, which borders Mexico, declared a state of emergency to address the outbreak. The Los Angeles Times newspaper said officials are investigating two deaths in the state that may have been linked to the virus.

Although Mexico is the epicenter of the outbreak, Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano says the U.S. focus is not on closing the border or conducting exit screening. She said the focus is on mitigation, and that a special task force is being created to deal with the outbreak.

Mexico is the only country to report any fatalities from swine flu, with more than 150 suspected deaths. But human cases of the virus also have been confirmed in the United States, Britain, Canada, Costa Rica, Israel, Spain and New Zealand. Other countries, including Australia, France, Denmark and South Korea, are investigating possible cases.

Cuba, which has not yet reported any illnesses, has suspended air travel to and from Mexico. Havana said Tuesday the restriction will last 48 hours and that it is prepared to take further steps if necessary. Argentina also has suspended flights from Mexico until early next week.

Other countries, including the U.S. and Britain, have urged their citizens to avoid all non-essential travel to Mexico, where many people are wearing face masks as a precaution and schools are closed until next week.

The U.S. has declared a public health emergency to allow authorities to spend federal money and release stockpiles of anti-viral medication. President Obama said Monday the declaration was issued as a "precautionary tool."

On Monday, the World Health Organization raised its flu pandemic alert level, saying the likelihood of a pandemic has increased, although it is not a certainty.

The WHO says swine influenza is a highly contagious acute respiratory disease of pigs. It says symptoms are generally similar to seasonal flu, but that cases have ranged broadly from mild infections to severe pneumonia resulting in death.

Some information for this report was provided by AP and Reuters.

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