Saturday, October 31, 2009

Castro: more US visitors mean more Cuban swine flu

Posted on Saturday, 10.31.09
Castro: more US visitors mean more Cuban swine flu
Associated Press Writer

HAVANA -- Fidel Castro has found something to sneeze at in Washington's
decision to ease visits by Cuban-Americans to his island: He says more
Americans mean more swine flu.

The 83-year-old ex-president wrote in state-controlled newspapers on
Saturday that many of Cuba's early cases of the virus were visitors from
the United States and he used the occasion to take a jab at the U.S.

"We had the strange case where the United States on one hand authorized
more trips for a large number of people carrying the virus, and on the
other prohibited us from obtaining equipment and medicine to combat the
virus," Castro said.

He added, however, that President Barack Obama was not plotting to
infect Cubans with the flu when, in April, he eased restrictions on
Cuban-Americans who want to travel or send money to Cuba.

"I don't think, of course, that it was the intention of the United
States," Castro wrote.

Cuba's government blames Washington's 47-year-old trade sanctions for
shortages of medical supplies, though U.S. law allows direct sale of
American medical equipment to this country, where health care is free
for all citizens.

Cuba tried to halt the outbreak of swine flu early this year by
grounding all flights to Mexico, where the virus was spreading rapidly,
and by imposing quarantines on those who were ill. Medical personnel
went door-to-door to keep the virus contained through the summer. Most
early cases were visitors from the United States or other countries.

But health officials say that that swine flu is now spreading at a much
faster rate and Castro said it has already infected patients in every
Cuban province, "principally those with the highest number of relatives
who reside in the United States."

Cuba has reported seven deaths and 793 confirmed cases. The World Health
Organization says there have been more than 4,500 swine flu fatalities

Castro, who gave up leadership when he had a medical crisis in July
2006, met Tuesday for about two hours with Margaret Chan, the World
Health Organization secretary-general.

Chan said Cuba will be among the about 100 developing countries that
could begin receiving international swine flu vaccines as early as next
month. Cuban leaders originally expressed reservations about the cost
and effectiveness of vaccinations against the virus, but have since
agreed to accept doses arriving from overseas.

Castro himself remains somewhat reticent, however, writing Saturday that
"our citizens should be aware that vaccinations against certain types of
virus are difficult, given their genetic mutations."

Castro: more US visitors mean more Cuban swine flu - Florida AP - ( 31 October 2009)

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