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May 19th, 2009
09:47 PM ET

Mexico travel warning lifted, but U.S. Swine Flu cases keep rising

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David Puente
AC360° Producer

Health officials in the US are investigating two more possible deaths from the H1N1 virus, also known as swine flu, a 16-month old toddler who died late yesterday in New York and a 44-year-old man who died today in Missouri. At the same time, they are also trying to confirm whether or not swine flu killed a New York assistant school principal. These deaths could bring the US death toll to nine.

Meanwhile, the World Health Organization said today nearly 10,000 people worldwide have been sickened by the virus. But the threshold which would make the WHO declare a global pandemic isn’t the number of cases, as much as it is how many regions are affected. Phase six of a pandemic alert kicks in if two or more world regions become affected. Right now we’re at phase five with most cases concentrated in Mexico and the US. Only three states have dodged the virus – Alaska, West Virginia and Wyoming.

Also today the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) is looking at new information about the kind of pre-existing conditions which could increase the risk of getting the H1N1 virus. In a number of cases in California the common denominator seems to be obesity. There is suspicion that the link may have to do with respiratory issues that some obese individuals have.

Is there any good news today? Well everyone I spoke to is optimistic about the potential of having a vaccine soon, and the US travel warning to Mexico has been canceled. The Mexico tourism industry has definitely been hurt by the Swine Flu scare. The CDC lifted its travel warning against all nonessential travel to Mexico and there is evidence that the Mexican outbreak of the H1N1 virus infection is slowing down in many cities, though not all. In addition, the United States and other countries are now seeing increasing numbers of cases not associated with travel to Mexico. Finally, the CDC said, risk of severe disease from H1N1 virus infection now appears to be less extreme than originally thought.

A spokesman for the Mexican Tourism Board told me that the travel industry is ready to welcome back all of its visitors and offer them the hospitality that has long distinguished Mexico. His country is known for its capacity of coming out of tough situations even stronger, like the devastating hurricane Wilma that closed down Cancun for almost a year in 2005. H1N1, he said, will not be the exception.

According to the Mexican Tourism webpage, Canada, Argentina, Peru, Uruguay, Ecuador, Italy, Austria, Belgium, United Kingdom and Switzerland have also lifted travel bans to Mexico.

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Filed under: 360° Radar • David Puente • H1N1
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