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Mexico Shuts Down in Effort to Prevent Spread of Swine Flu


Nearly all of Mexico is at a standstill in an attempt to contain the spread of the H1N1 swine flu virus that has killed a number of people and sickened hundreds in the country.

Schools, businesses and non-essential offices will be closed for five days, with President Felipe Calderon urging people to stay home during the Cinco de Mayo holiday. Many schools have been closed in the United States as well.

12 confirmed deaths so far

Mexican authorities Thursday said it has confirmed 12 deaths, although the suspected death toll is higher. Health Minister Jose Angel Cordova says the number of people who have sought treatment for flu-like symptoms has declined, suggesting the outbreak could be leveling off.

The virus is quickly spreading in other parts of the world.

The World Health Organization says 11 countries have confirmed 331 cases of the illness, including 109 cases in the United States. In addition, both Denmark and Hong Kong confirmed their first cases Friday.

US reports 1 flu fatality

The U.S. has confirmed one death from the virus - the only confirmed fatality outside of Mexico, the epicenter of the outbreak.

The United States is planning to purchase an additional 13 million courses of flu medicine to add to the national stockpile of treatments for the virus.

Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius said Thursday that 400,000 of those treatments will be sent to Mexico. The U.S. already has more than 70 million courses of antiviral drugs stockpiled across the country.

No plans to close border

The U.S. is not closing its border with Mexico, but is advising its citizens to avoid non-essential travel to Mexico. It also is advising citizens to stay home if they are feeling ill or experiencing flu-like symptoms.

The flu has not reached pandemic proportions, but the WHO is asking all countries to combat the spreading virus with "increased urgency."

WHO says the virus also has been confirmed in Austria, Britain, Canada, Germany, Israel, Spain, New Zealand, Netherlands and Switzerland. Suspected cases are being investigated in countries including Australia, Colombia, France, Japan and South Korea.

Some information for this report was provided by AFP and AP.

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