Mexico sees spike in H1N1 swine flu cases, 68 people dead

Residents wait in line to receive bedspreads handed out by local authorities as part of the measures to prevent seasonal flu and influenza A (H1N1) at the main plaza of San Lorenzo Acopilco, on the outskirts of Mexico City January 30, 2014. At least 2,214 influenza cases have been confirmed and 227 people have died due the virus on January, according to Mexico's Health Ministry. People can receive free vaccine shots in public areas as local authorities have stepped up precautions during the winter season. REUTERS/Tomas Bravo (MEXICO - Tags: HEALTH SOCIETY) - RTX181S6 (Reuters)

MEXICO CITY (Reuters) - Mexico has seen a sharp jump in cases of the virus H1N1, popularly known as swine flu, killing 68 people so far this flu season, according to health ministry data. The overall number of flu cases and deaths has also risen, but the H1N1 statistics are striking. The Mexican government has detected 945 cases of H1N1 this season, compared with just four cases and no deaths last season. But the Mexican government emphasized schools should not shutter their doors due to the flu. "We are not facing an epidemic that would justify closing schools," Education Minister Aurelio Nuno said at a news conference this week. While swine flu cases comprise only one-third of all flu infections this season, the virus has proven particularly deadly, with 69 percent of all flu deaths attributed to H1N1. An increase in H1N1 cases has also been seen in the United States and Canada, according to the World Health Organization (WHO). In 2009, the WHO declared H1N1 a pandemic after the virus started in Mexico and spread around the globe. Recent media reports have cited shortages of flu medication and 35 percent of pharmacies across the country do not currently have Roche Holding AG's Tamiflu, a popular treatment, according to the national pharmacies' association (Anafarmex). Anafarmex said the government has sent thousands of Tamiflu units to pharmacies to boost supply. Mexico's flu season usually lasts from October to March. (Reporting by Joanna Zuckerman Bernstein; Editing by Lisa Shumaker)