U.S. swine flu deaths hit double-digitsMarcos Antonio Sanchez went from being an outgoing 21-year-old to Utah's first swine flu fatality in less than a week. Swine flu now has sickened more than 10,000 people in 41 countries and killed 80, according to the World Health Organization, whose figures often lag those of individual countries. Mexico has reported 75 deaths, the U.S. 10, and one in both Canada and Costa Rica.
By: Mike Stark, Associated Press
SALT LAKE CITY — Marcos Antonio Sanchez went from being an outgoing 21-year-old to Utah's first swine flu fatality in less than a week.
Last week, Sanchez enjoyed swimming and lived with his girlfriend. Then on Saturday, he checked into a hospital, vomiting blood and burning with fever. His lungs shut down on Tuesday.
The next day, his mother made the agonizing decision to take her son off life-support, pushing the nation's death toll to 10 people.
"I knew he was suffering," Christina Huitron told KSL-TV. "I don't know how he was feeling, but I just knew I had to do it because he was passing away slowly anyways, and I didn't want him to suffer anymore."
Dr. David Sundwall, executive director of the Utah Department of Health, said Sanchez was overweight and had chronic medical conditions, including respiratory problems, that put him at risk.
"This is not a person who was overall genuinely healthy," Sundwall said.
Sanchez had not traveled recently. Dagmar Vitek, medical director for the Salt Lake Valley Health Department, said an investigation to determine how he contracted the virus was under way. Utah has 122 confirmed cases of the virus.
In neighboring Arizona, health officials said Wednesday a 13-year-old boy from Tucson also has died with swine flu. The teenager died Friday of complications from the flu. He had been hospitalized May 10.
Arizona Department of Health Services spokeswoman Patti Woodcock said an older sibling of the teen is hospitalized with the virus, while other family members have recovered.
Swine flu has sickened more than 10,000 people in 41 countries and killed 80, according to the World Health Organization, whose figures often lag those of individual countries. Mexico has reported 75 deaths, the U.S. 10, and one in both Canada and Costa Rica.
In New York City, officials, colleagues, friends and family gathered Wednesday at a funeral home to remember Mitchell Wiener, an 55-year-old assistant principal who died of swine flu Sunday.
"Whenever I needed help, I used to always go to him," student Jeffery Grey told reporters outside the funeral home. "I really don't know who to go to now when I need help."
Two more New York City public schools closed amid swine flu fears, bringing the number of city public and private schools shuttered within the last week to 23. Four schools in Lodi, Wis., and one in Reno, Nev., also closed Wednesday after students were sickened.
Judy Davis, a spokeswoman for the Washoe County District Health Department in Nevada, said state, county and school officials agreed that closing Mendive Middle School in Sparks was "best course of action" to prevent further spread of the flu after five students were sickened and one was hospitalized.
But experts said closing schools once students were already ill would do little to halt the virus' seemingly inexorable spread.
"As a disease containment measure, it is not likely to be effective," said Dr. Paul Biddinger, associate director of the Center for Public Health Preparedness at the Harvard School of Public Health.
In Japan, two high school girls who recently visited New York for a Model United Nations Conference became Tokyo's first confirmed cases. Japan had 267 total confirmed cases as of Thursday morning, making it the world's fourth-most infected country, behind Mexico, the U.S. and Canada.
While Japan's Health and Welfare Minister Yoichi Masuzoe urged citizens to remain calm, Egypt's health minister warned that Egyptians who perform the annual Muslim pilgrimage to Mecca risk being quarantined upon their return.
"It is my job to warn," Hatem el-Gabali said. "I can also open the quarantine and say no one will return to their homes after arriving from Saudi Arabia."
Egyptian officials already have ordered that the country's roughly 300,000 pigs be killed as a preventive measure and have finished off about a third of the job in a couple of weeks.
In Geneva, health campaigners and officials from some poorer nations complained this year's World Health Assembly was neglecting diseases killing millions of people all over the world because of swine flu fears.
"Malaria, drug-resistant tuberculosis — they are killing people every day," said Dr. Sam Zaramba, Uganda's chief medical officer. "If all the emphasis that has been put on swine flu had been put on malaria and TB, we would have made a bigger impact on health."
Discussions were postponed on fighting Chagas disease, a scourge in Latin American countries, and the first-ever WHO resolution addressing hepatitis was dropped from the meeting's agenda.
But WHO spokesman Thomas Abraham said the assembly was still taking on a "broad agenda" that went far beyond swine flu to deal with improving basic health care and tackling global killers like TB.
Copyright 2009 The Associated Press.