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Global death toll tops 50

Latest update : 2009-05-11

The death toll from the A(H1N1) virus outbreak has topped 50, according to the World Health Organisation, as Costa Rica confirmed its first fatality from the virus and Norway joined the growing list of countries with confirmed cases.

AFP - The death toll from swine flu topped 50 on Saturday as Costa Rica reported its first fatality from the virus and Japan and Norway joined a growing list of nations with confirmed cases.

In Costa Rica, Health Minister Maria Luisa Avila said the victim was a 53-year-old man who died on Saturday after more than a week in a hospital in the capital San Jose.

The man had been suffering from other health problems, including diabetes and a chronic pulmonary condition. Eight other Costa Ricans had contracted A(H1N1) influenza, as the virus is officially known, Avila said.

In Tokyo, a teacher and two students returning from North America tested positive for swine flu in the first confirmed cases of the virus in Japan, the government said.

Japanese authorities quarantined the 46-year-old man and 16-year-old boys, who had been on a high school trip to Canada, and 49 others who were aboard their flight as it arrived in Tokyo on Friday from the US city of Detroit.

Seven of the 49 were later taken to hospital as they had flu symptoms, a health ministry official said.

In Norway, health officials announced the first two confirmed swine flu cases, both young adults who had recently returned from Mexico.

There have now been 48 deaths recorded in Mexico along with two US deaths and one each in Canada and Costa Rica. The World Health Organization has still to confirm three of the Mexican fatalities and the latest one from Costa Rica.

While Mexico was the epicenter of the global swine flu epidemic, the United States has overtaken its southern neighbor to become the country with the most number of cases.

The United States now has 2,254 confirmed cases with 104 people hospitalized; Mexico has recorded 1,626 cases including its 48 deaths, and done 5,580 tests.

US cases were confirmed in 44 of the 50 US states and the capital Washington. Health authorities were now focusing on the characteristics of the new virus and on developing a vaccine, said Anne Schuchat of the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

Swine flu has now been reported in a total of 31 nations and the latest WHO figures -- which don't include new cases in Costa Rica, Japan, Mexico, Norway, Spain and the United States -- put the total number of infected at 3,440.

Canada has the world's third highest number of swine flu infections, with 224 cases, and on Friday reported its first death.

The sharp increase in cases from WHO's Friday count of 2,500 cases reflected the doubling of confirmed cases in the United States.

Japanese Prime Minister Taro Aso said the three confirmed cases were not considered a domestic outbreak because they were intercepted at the airport.

The teacher and students had stayed in Oakville, west of Toronto, on a school trip from April 24 until last Thursday. The teacher remained sick while the two students were recovering, officials said.

Mexico gradually returned to life this week, reopening tourist sites, Mexico City eateries, theaters and cinemas after a shutdown of more than a week. Universities and high schools reopened on Thursday and primary schools were due back on Monday.

US President Barack Obama warned the United States on Friday that it was not out of the woods yet, as across the nation's northern border a woman in western Alberta province became the first person in Canada to succumb to the disease.

"We are seeing that the virus may not have been as virulent as we at first feared," Obama said at a Spanish-language town hall-style meeting at the White House.

"But we are not out of the woods yet. We still have to take precautions."

The US president warned the autumn and winter flu season later in the year could be "even worse" and see cases spike again.

Date created : 2009-05-10