AFP - Argentina on Wednesday reported 17 more swine flu deaths, bringing the total to at least 43 in the country hardest hit by the A(H1N1) virus in the southern hemisphere.
Health Minister Juan Manzur said that "between 43 and 44 deaths" linked to the virus had been confirmed, a significant jump from the 26 that had been reported by the ministry on Friday.
Argentina has now surpassed Canada as the country with the third highest swine flu death toll, following the United States with 127 deaths reported and Mexico, where the epidemic was first discovered earlier this year, with 116 deaths.
"The swine flu situation is serious, it's difficult," said Manzur.
"We are contending with a trend that is still on the rise," he said, referring to what is expected to be a further spread of seasonal and swine flu with the South American nation in the grip of winter.
The World Health Organization declared a global swine flu pandemic in June, and in its latest release, on Wednesday, said 332 people have died from it and 77,201 people worldwide have caught the virus.
Health experts are following the situation closely in the southern hemisphere, as events here could be a harbinger of what is to come north of the equator when winter hits North America, Europe and most of Asia at the end of the year.
The epidemic in Argentina is noteworthy because of its apparent high mortality rate compared to other countries stricken with the virus.
With 1,587 confirmed cases and 43 deaths, one in every 37 confirmed swine flu cases -- 2.71 percent -- in Argentina has been fatal.
In Mexico, where the epidemic was discovered, 116 people have died out of a total 8,613 confirmed cases, a mortality rate of 1.35 percent, about half as high.
By contrast, the United States has 127 confirmed deaths out of 27,717 cases, a mortality rate of 0.46 percent for known cases, and the death rate could be far lower as US health officials believe one million Americans have contracted swine flu.
In Argentina's neighbor Chile, 14 deaths have been recorded, out of a total 7,342 confirmed cases of A(H1N1), or 0.19 percent mortality.