Monday, 3 August 2009

Swine flu (AH1N1) continues to plague Latin America despite early hopes that the crisis had already peaked, the Ministry of Health (MINSAL) said last Tuesday. There are 11,860 confirmed cases of AH1N1 in Chile, including 1,022 deemed serious. The virus has already claimed the lives of 96 people in Chile.

In mid July Health Undersecretary Jeanette Vega predicted a drop in the incidence of swine flu. At the time there were 40 deaths out of 10,900 confirmed cases.

In related news, Chile has agreed to give Costa Rican 50,000 flu treatments in the coming weeks, should Costa Rica need more than the 30,000 flu doses it already has in stock.

Costa Rica, which has been affected by the virus since May, has had 22 flu deaths and 718 confirmed cases.  Still, 21 of the deaths also had other risk factors associated, including chronic breathing conditions, obesity, hypertension, diabetes and others.

While it is uncertain exactly when the vaccine for AH1N1 will be ready, a debate is beginning to surface regarding the vaccine.

“All countries will require the vaccine, but current global manufacturing capacity will not be able to meet this demand,” the British journal The Lancet wrote in an editorial on Saturday. “Additionally, experts think that individuals might need two doses of the vaccine instead of one, reducing capacity further . . . As well as availability, safety of an H1N1 vaccine is a concern. Many national regulatory agencies have set-up fast-track approval processes for the H1N1 vaccine, which means that a vaccine might be licensed without the usual safety and efficacy data requirements.”

Friday, just hours after Chilean health authorities released their latest swine flu statistics, Chilean President Michelle Bachelet was in Brazil, where she took advantage of the media spotlight to extend a warm invitation to would-be Brazilian tourists. Her message was clear: come enjoy Chile’s snowy ski slopes and don’t worry about swine flu.

Chile’s swine flu outbreak, which began May 17, “is well under control,” said Bachelet. “The Chilean and Brazilian health ministries are working together actively to share information about treatment and diagnosis.”

The Chilean president met earlier in the day with her Brazilian counterpart, Luiz Inacio “Lula” da Silva, who in June recommended against travelling to Chile. The two leaders now agree that Brazilians travelling to Chile face no real danger.

“We think Brazilians can be relaxed and go to our country to enjoy the snow and the other sites that Chile and our people are able to offer our friends,” said Bachelet.


By Daniel Zarchy and Santiago Times Staff (

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