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Swine flu-related deaths outside Mexico increase

THE number of swine flu-related deaths outside Mexico rose after the United States reported its third fatality and Costa Rica its first, but both men also suffered from complicating illnesses, health officials said.

In Mexico, the center of the outbreak where 48 people with swine flu have died, most of the victims have been adults aged 20 to 49, and many had no reported complicating factors.

Elsewhere, five others have died while infected with the virus, including the two fatalities reported on Saturday, but each of them had additional health issues. People with chronic illnesses are usually at greatest risk of severe problems from flu, along with the elderly and young children.

In Washington State in the United States, health officials said a man in his 30s had underlying heart conditions and viral pneumonia when he died on Thursday from what appeared to be complications from swine flu. The state Department of Health said swine flu was considered "a factor."

"We're working with local and federal partners to track this outbreak," Washington State Secretary of Health Mary Selecky said yesterday. "We urge people to take this outbreak, and the seasonal flu we see every year, very seriously."

The death of a 53-year-old man in Costa Rica on Saturday was the first involving swine flu outside North America. He also suffered from diabetes and chronic lung disease, the country's Health Ministry said.

Health problems

Previously, US authorities reported swine flu deaths of a toddler with a heart defect and a woman with rheumatoid arthritis, and Canadian officials said the woman who died there also had other health problems but gave no details.

The Costa Rican fatality was one of eight swine flu cases in the country confirmed by the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Health Minister Maria Luisa Avila said.

Avila said officials had been unable to determine how the Costa Rican patient became infected, but she said he had not recently traveled abroad.

Mexico, which raised its count of confirmed cases to 1,626 based on tests of earlier patients, continued to gradually lift a nationwide shutdown of schools, businesses, churches and football stadiums.

But an upswing in suspected cases in parts of Mexico prompted authorities in at least six of the country's 31 states to delay plans to let primary school students return to class today after a two-week break.

Mexican health authorities released a breakdown of the first 45 of the country's 48 flu deaths that showed that 84 percent of the victims were between the ages of 20 and 54.

Only 2.2 percent were immune-depressed, and none had a previous history of respiratory disease.

In Canada, officials said almost 500 hogs quarantined on an Alberta farm after being diagnosed with swine flu had been killed " because of animal welfare concerns."


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