Castro Accuses Mexico of Non-Disclosure in Swine Flu

HAVANA (AP) - Fidel Castro accused Mexico of failing to disclose
the spread of swine flu until after U.S. President Barack Obama had
visited, as Cuba confirmed its first case of the virus in a Mexican
medical student studying on the island.

The Health Ministry said the "young male" became ill during a
vacation in Mexico and returned to his studies at a medical clinic
in Matanzas province, east of Havana. A statement read on state
television Monday night gave no details on his current condition.

Castro, the former Cuban president, reacted hours later, writing
in a column posted on a government Web site that "Mexican
authorities did not inform the world of the presence (of swine
flu), while they waited for Obama's visit."

Obama stopped in Mexico en route to the Summit of the Americas
in Trinidad last month, days before Mexican health officials closed
schools and announced swine flu was spreading, prompting an
eventual mass shutdown that brought many parts of the country to a
virtual halt.

The Cuban Health Ministry statement said a group of Mexican
students began arriving on April 25 - four days before Cuban
authorities halted airline flights to and from Mexico to keep swine
flu from spreading to the island.

Relations between Cuba and Mexico have been chilly for several
years, since a diplomatic spat involving the government of
then-President Vicente Fox. Mexican authorities had said Fox's
successor, Felipe Calderon, would visit the island during the first
quarter of 2009 as part of an ongoing effort to improve ties.

But Calderon recently said he may have to delay plans for a Cuba
visit, quipping that the island's grounding of flights to and from
Mexico may leave him with no way to make the trip.

Cuba's 82-year-old former president blasted Calderon for that
comment and chided Mexican authorities for failing to disclose the
spread of swine flu sooner.

"At this moment, we and dozens of other countries are paying
the consequences and, on top of that, they accuse us of taking
hurtful measures toward Mexico."

He added that the measures that the Mexican president was
complaining about "met established norms and had not even the
slightest intention of affecting the brother country of Mexico."

In its statement Monday, Cuba's Health Ministry said other
Mexican medical students returning from vacation at the same time
as the young man diagnosed with swine flu experienced cold symptoms and were quarantined for observation, but most were deemed healthy and released.

Tests by the Institute of Tropical Medicine in Havana confirmed
the first case of swine flu, though it was unclear how many Mexican
students might still be isolated for more testing.

The ministry said that in all of Cuba, authorities tested 84
possible cases in people of eight nationalities and had only found
the one positive result.

The official ban on flights between Mexico and Cuba has since
been eased to allow Cuba's national airline to send a few planes a
week to pick up its citizens in Mexico. Still, several flights a
day between Havana and the resort of Cancun or Mexico City continue
to be canceled, stranding hundreds of passengers.

A study published Monday in the journal Science estimated Mexico
alone may have had 23,000 cases by April 23, the day it announced
the epidemic. The study estimates swine flu kills between 0.4
percent and 1.4 percent of its victims, but lead author Neil
Ferguson of Imperial College, London, said the data remain
incomplete.

The number of countries reporting swine flu cases stands at 31,
with the World Health Organization confirming about 4,800 cases. At
least 61 people have been killed by swine flu around the world: 56
in Mexico, three in the U.S., one in Canada and one in Costa Rica.


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