At least three people have died while infected with the H1N1 flu virus, also known as Swine Flu in El Paso, USA and Ciudad Juarez, Mexico, officials have announced. Information regarding one of the patients, a 76-year-old male, indicates that the virus was a secondary factor in his death in February; he had several health problems already.

Fernando Gonzalez, an epidemiologist for El Paso Department of Health, stressed there is no reason for alarm, while at the same time assuring people that the authorities are taking this investigation seriously.

Two confirmed deaths in Ciudad Juarez involve a male traffic cop and a 30 to 35 year-old female.

Gonzalez said:

“This recent death is not a case of a seemingly healthy individual who contracted the diseases, became ill and died as a result. Much like we saw with H1N1 cases in 2009, this elderly man was someone who was sick and whose body could not overcome various illnesses, including the H1N1 flu strain.”

Health officials in Ciudad Juarez informed that two of its citizens have died, while others have become infected with flu-like symptoms in what they suspect is H1N1.

Chihuahua officials stressed that all of their cases consist of individuals who have been over to the US side of the border, or people who had been in contact with people on the US side of the border. Ciudad Juarez is in the state of Chihuahua.

Six cases have proved negative in Chihuahua, while two were confirmed infected with H1N1.

A number of police officers in Ciudad Juarez have come down with flu-like illnesses.

Of the 357 confirmed cases of seasonal flu in El Paso in January this year, three were ill with H1N1, compared to 302 flu cases in February of which 26 had the H1N1 virus. So far in March there have been 126 confirmed cases of flu.

The municipality of Ciudad Juarez today issued a written announcement saying that as a result of the recent H1N1 virus outbreak, a vaccination campaign was launched this morning by the Mayor. 4,800 H1N1 flu vaccines will be administered to local government employees, as well as citizens who come into the municipality offices on any official business.

Health officials in Chihuahua informed that over 40,000 citizens will also be vaccinated, including those working in Social Development, the Municipal Hospital, Primary Care Clinics, Community Centers, and several police and firefighting stations. (“Arranca campaña de vacunación contra AH1N1”) (PDF – in Spanish).

According to local media, there are currently 25 suspected cases of H1N1 infection on the Mexican side of the border. Thirteen of them are not confined to a hospital, they are being seen as outpatients.

Health officials in the Mexican border city say that any student arriving to school with flu-like symptoms will be sent home immediately.

Health Secretary, Jose Angel Cordova has confirmed that nationally (Mexico) there has been an increase in the number of seasonal flu cases, but added that the cases were not the same as the ones reported in this text. He stressed that cases around the country are much less aggressive. He believes that the Ciudad Juarez cases may be linked to a high flu rate in Texas, from which Mexicans travel back (and forth) all the time.

Written by Christian Nordqvist