MEXICO CITY — Mexican swine flu cases jumped as the Netherlands and Vietnam joined the growing list of countries with fatalities and deaths from the virus in Latin America soared.
Three new deaths each, not yet confirmed by the World Health Organization, were registered on Tuesday in Costa Rica, Peru and in San Salvador, two more in Saudi Arabia and others in Bolivia and Spain.
While no new deaths were reported in Mexico, the health ministry said almost 1,000 fresh cases had been confirmed in just five days, taking the total soaring above 17,000.
"As of yesterday (Monday) evening the number of confirmed cases of A(H1N1) in the country was 17,416, of which 146 have died," a ministry statement said.
It was unclear where all the new cases had occurred, but the impoverished southeastern state of Chiapas has been struggling to contain a sharp rise in recorded cases in recent weeks.
Since the virus first emerged in Mexico in April, it has spread globally, reaching pandemic level and affecting nearly every country in the world, according to the WHO.
The United States has recorded the most deaths from the virus, 353 so far, followed by Argentina with 165 deaths.
According to the latest WHO figures, which only cover cases recorded up to July 31, there are 162,380 cases of infection worldwide, and 1,154 confirmed deaths from the virus.
The two new deaths in Saudi Arabia included a Sri Lankan man who was found dead in his hotel room on Monday.
Authorities in war-torn Iraq, meanwhile, quarantined a hotel in the holy Shiite city of Karbala after a Saudi pilgrim staying there tested positive for swine flu.
The decision to isolate the hotel comes just days before commemoration ceremonies in the city, 110 kilometers (70 miles) south of Baghdad, for the birth of Imam Mahdi, an 8th century Islamic leader who vanished and is revered by Shiites as the coming Messiah.
"We discovered the first swine flu case, a Saudi national who arrived in Karbala two days ago," governor Amal al-Din al-Har told a media conference.
"We quarantined all of the residents of the hotel he was staying at because of fears some of them were infected."
Netherlands on Tuesday joined the rank of countries where people have died from the virus when a 17-year-old boy passed away overnight, health officials said. Vietnam also reported its first fatality, a 29-year-old woman.
India and South Africa had both reported their first fatalities from the A(H1N1) virus late on Monday.
The new deaths came as health officials raised the alarm about a strain of swine flu that is resistant to the Tamiflu treatment.
Maria Teresa Cerqueira, head of the Pan-American Health Organization office in La Jolla, California, said a Tamiflu-resistant mutation of the virus had been found around the US-Mexico border in El Paso and close to McAllen, Texas.
Experts had gathered in La Jolla, California, on Monday to discuss responses to the outbreak, and warned that resistant strains were likely emerging because of overuse of antivirals like Tamiflu.
"In the United States Tamiflu is sold with a prescription, but in Mexico and Canada it is sold freely and taken at the first sneeze. Then, when it is really needed, it doesn't work," said Cerqueira.
Cases of swine flu that were resistant to the anti-viral medicine have now been found in the United States, Canada, Denmark, Hong Kong and Japan.
A Taiwanese biotech company on Tuesday started mass production of a swine flu vaccine before even completing clinical trials, in a bid to get a jump before the start of the winter flu season.
Adimmune Corp, the island's only human vaccine manufacturer, said it was starting production at its plant in central Taichung.
The company is due to deliver five million doses of the vaccine before the end of October, according to the purchase contract it has signed with the government, said deputy CEO and president Ignatius Wei.
A sign of the burgeoning demand for such a drug, Brazil said Tuesday it had ordered 18 million doses of swine flu vaccine this year and was considering buying another 15 million next year.
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