Peru Health Ministry confirms 11 new cases of swine flu, nearly 20 Lima schools temporarily shut down

By Annie Thériault

Peru’s Health Ministry reported on Thursday that 11 additional cases of swine flu were confirmed in the Andean country, bringing the total to 16.

“In Peru, 11 new cases of the AH1N1 virus have been confirmed,” reads the press release posted on the Health Ministry’s website. “And 8 of these cases correspond to students, who recently traveled to the Dominican Republic.”

The 8 students, as well as many others enrolled in private schools located in Peru’s capital, Lima, traveled to the Dominican Republic this May as part of school-organized graduation trips.

On Friday, a day after the 11 additional swine flu cases were confirmed, nearly 20 private high schools temporarily suspended classes as a precaution to avoid the spreading of the virus.

In addition to the students, it was confirmed that a 29-year old Peruvian woman, a 17-year old student and a 14-year old girl that recently traveled to Argentina also suffer from the swine flu.

“All of the patients are currently under medical supervision, are quarantined in their homes and being treated with antiviral medication,” reports Peru’s Health Ministry.

Swine influenza, or “swine flu,” is a highly contagious acute respiratory disease of pigs, caused by one of several swine influenza A viruses. The virus is spread among pigs by aerosols, direct and indirect contact, and asymptomatic carrier pigs.

In humans, clinical symptoms are similar to seasonal influenza, but reported clinical presentation ranges broadly from asymptomatic infection to severe pneumonia resulting in death.

According to the World Health Organization, or WHO, “if a swine virus establishes efficient human-to human transmission, it can cause an influenza pandemic. The impact of a pandemic caused by such a virus is difficult to predict: it depends on virulence of the virus, existing immunity among people, cross protection by antibodies acquired from seasonal influenza infection and host factors.”

As of May 22, 2009, 42 countries have officially reported 11,168 cases of influenza AH1N1 infection, including 86 deaths.

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