Peru moves up mid-term vacation for public schools in response to swine flu spread

Peruvian Education Minister Antonio Chang announced Thursday that Peru’s public school children will start their mid-year vacations two weeks early in an attempt to stem the spread of AH1N1 flu virus.

Schools will let out from July 15-31, and resume earlier than usual in August to make up for lost classroom time.

The virus is currently “in a stage of expansion, not only in Lima and Callao but on a nationwide scale,” Ugarte told reporters. “This is a process, an epidemic that on a worldwide level continues to expand, and particularly in our country and in other countries in the southern hemisphere, where it is currently winter, creating favorable conditions for the virus’ spread.”

He added that the virus has hit younger people particularly hard in Peru, where 75 percent of those infected are under 18.

Health Minister Oscar Ugarte reported Sunday that the AH1N1 flu virus claimed its first two fatalities in Peru, a 38-year-old woman and a 4-year-old girl.

“In both cases, these are very regrettable cases, but they are within what we call risk populations,” said Ugarte, who said deceased woman suffered from high blood pressure and severe obesity, while the child had Down syndrome.

“The patient came to the hospital on June 29, 2009, with signs of acute respiratory infection,” said Ugarte during a press conference on Sunday. “As soon as we suspected that it could be the virus, we gave her the adequate anti-viral and anti-bacterial treatments. But her weight and weak immune system were problematic, and made her death inevitable.”

The woman and the girl died in Peru’s capital, Lima, on July 3 and June 28, 2009 respectively.

As of July 6, 2009, the virus, declared a global pandemic last month by the World Health Organization, or WHO, had infected 94,512 and caused 429 deaths worldwide.

In Peru, 916 cases have so far been confirmed, and 607 patients released from the hospital after receiving treatment.

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