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Mexico says new flu no more deadly than usual flu
MEXICO CITY |
MEXICO CITY (Reuters) - A new flu virus that has killed dozens of people in Mexico is not more deadly than regular seasonal flu and does not appear to be more contagious, Mexico's top epidemiologist said on Monday.
At least 26 people have died in Mexico since a swine flu epidemic swept through the country and quickly spread around the globe. Scientists are still wondering why only one person outside Mexico, a Mexican toddler in Texas, has died.
The answer may be that the virus is not especially deadly, and Mexico was hard hit because the virus appeared there so much earlier than in other countries, catching Mexico off guard, said Dr. Miguel Angel Lezana, who is the head of the country's national disease alert center.
"By being one of the first countries where the virus was found circulating, both people and health services were before an unknown and never-before-seen situation," Lezana said in an interview.
Lezana, who is also a spokesman for the Mexican health ministry, said information from Mexico's confirmed swine flu cases shows that the new H1N1 virus is about as contagious as seasonal flu.
Researchers interviewed people who had come into contact with those infected with the virus to help track how easily it was spread, Lezana said.
"The virulence is very similar to seasonal flu," Lezana said. Virulence describes the severity of disease caused by a germ.
U.S. health authorities also have cited "encouraging signs" that the new H1N1 virus appears to be no more dangerous than routine seasonal flu viruses that circulate annually.
Worldwide, seasonal flu kills between 250,000 and 500,000 people in an average year, but the flu season for North America should have been winding down by the end of April.
Mexican health officials say they began noticing an abnormally high number of flu cases in mid-March.
Mexico said on Monday it was winning the battle against the new flu virus as the nation stayed largely shut for business and cases dropped.
Just over 1,000 people in 20 countries have been diagnosed with the new strain.
(Editing by Maggie Fox and Will Dunham)
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