MEXICO CITY – An outbreak of swine flu that may have killed up to 60 people prompted authorities Friday to close schools throughout this sprawling city of 20 million people and order emergency health measures in an attempt to contain the disease.
Meanwhile, U.S. officials said they had found one new case in San Diego, bringing the total number of cases in the United States to eight. All have recovered fully. In Geneva, the World Health Organization said the strain in Mexico was identical to the one that has shown up in California and Texas.
In Mexico City, nervous parents, some wearing surgical masks and carrying toddlers, formed long lines at clinics Friday morning. They were full of questions, about symptoms, how they can stay home from work to care for the sick, where to obtain the medicines.
“We are monitoring the evolution of the epidemic and, so far, it is under control,” national Health Secretary Jose Angel Cordova said Friday. He said the rate of deaths is slowing and there are no plans to close the country’s borders because of the outbreak.
Of the deaths believed linked to the outbreak, he said, 20 have been confirmed as being caused by swine flu; 40 are being investigated. A total of 1,004 people are reported to be ill with flu symptoms, including a high fever, severe headache and persistent cough, Cordova said.
Researchers at the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention have so far found no links among the U.S. victims or any common behaviors, acting director Dr. Richard Besser said. That suggests “there has been transmission through several cycles” – meaning several intermediaries passed it among themselves before the virus reached the identified victims.
If that is the case, Besser added, many people have already been exposed to the virus and it is too late to contain a potential outbreak in the United States. The good news is that none of the intermediaries appears to have developed serious illness, suggesting that the disease is not especially virulent.
Investigators are analyzing why the disease is so much more severe in Mexico, Besser said.