Swine flu in brief: 02/05/2009

Mexico shuts down

Mexico started a five-day shutdown of most offices and businesses yesterday to try to halt the spread of the infection. Officials said they were encouraged by signs the number of new cases was falling.

Health Minister Jose Angel Cordova said public hospitals that treat roughly half the country admitted just 46 patients with severe flu symptoms on Thursday, down from 212 patients on April 20. "This is encouraging," he said. Mexico has so far reported 176 deaths from the new strain of the H1N1 virus.

Maori nose greeting could spread flu

The Catholic Church in New Zealand told priests not to place communion wafers in the mouths of worshippers because of swine flu risks and indigenous Maori were urged to stop using their greeting that brings people nose-to-nose. New Zealand – along with Hong Kong – has the only confirmed cases in the Asia-Pacific region. New Zealand officials said the number of lab-confirmed cases in the country had grown to four.