The H1N1 flu virus is making fewer people in Mexico sick and will likely cause no more than 100 deaths in the country, Health Minister Jose Angel Cordova said Wednesday.
He told Reuters that Mexican hospitals were seeing a drop in cases of the virus, also known as swine flu, in recent days. “Fortunately this was not the very serious epidemic that we were expecting,” he said in an interview.
Mexico has confirmed 60 deaths from the virus, which has spread throughout the world, and additional fatalities could come from people already in serious condition in hospitals.
“People are arriving earlier to treatment, fewer people are coming in serious condition, there have been fewer cases coming into the hospital and fewer deaths,” he said. Close to 30 percent of those who died in Mexico were suffering from diabetes or complications linked to obesity, he added.
Quickly spreading from human to human, the H1N1 flu has now sickened 6,000 people in more than 30 countries, but no place has suffered as many deaths as Mexico.
Cordova blamed the high fatality rate on the fact that many do not seek health care in Mexico, or try to self-medicate when their symptoms are similar to those of a common seasonal flu.
Some people may be asymptomatic carriers of the virus, who never show the signs of a serious fever or respiratory problems related to the infection, said Cordova, making those cases virtually impossible to detect.
The world was first alerted to the existence in Mexico of the new virus, which mixes swine, avian and human elements, on April 23 but tests of earlier samples have shown the flu infected someone in Mexico City as far back as March 11.
After the appearance of the strain, Mexico took drastic measures to contain the outbreak, partially shutting down the economy and closing schools for around two weeks.
Cordova said scientists were still far from determining the origin of the virus, which the World Health Organization has said could mutate into a more virulent form and spark a pandemic.
(Additional reporting by Miguel Angel Gutierrez; Editing by Cynthia Osterman)