Sunday, May 3, 2009

First Flu Cases Confirmed in El Salvador

The health ministry of El Salvador confirmed the first two cases of AH1N1 (swine flu).

"We have confirmed that two people are suffering from influenza A, virus H1N1 and we are redoubling health measures," said Minister Guillermo Maza.

Maza said that besides the two confirmed cases there are three other suspected cases of the disease. Laboratory samples have been sent to the Center for Disease Control (CDC) in Atlanta, United States, in order to confirm the disease.

The two confirmed infections affect two 22 year old youths. One of them returned after spending a couple of weeks in Mexico, traveling to different places in the central department of La Libertad.

According to Maza, both young men are responding well to the medication that was administered and are being kept in isolation at home. The family does not currently have symptoms of infection.

The State Social Security Institute has also ordered a redoubling of efforts to care for people suffering from flu symptoms so they can identify other possible cases of swine flu.

El Salvador now joins Costa Rica with confirmed cases of influenza A, while in Guatemala there are still no confirmed cases but 18 patients remained under observation.

Two More Tremors hit San Marcos

A magnitude 6.1 quake occurred near Guatemala City this morning, as reported in the Maya Paradise bulletin board. One poorly constructed home collapsed in Retalhuleu but no serious damage has been reported. Contacts in the city report cracked stairways and some leaking plumbing. This 6.1 rates as the strongest quake of 2009, thus far.

Two more tremors occurred this afternoon in San Marcos, between 6:45 and 6:58 PM causing fear due to the anxiety from the first quake that occurred this morning.

Data on the last two quakes has not yet appeared on USGS reports which implies they were less than mag 2.5. There is no report from INSIVUMEH yet.

More info will appear as it becomes available.

Puerto Barrios Health Care May be Cut Back

Budget cuts may cause patient care centers in Los Amates, Morales, El Estor, and Livingston to reduce their hours and go back to category B health centers, decreasing patient care by 85 percent.

The Union of Health Workers staged a peaceful demonstration against the Directorate of the Department of Health protesting staff cuts, cuts in salaries to employees, reduced quality of service and the possible closure of the Customer Service Centers.

Sonia Negreros of that organization, said: "We are demonstrating peacefully to protect the rights of staff recruited for Customer Service Centers and against the budget cut, because it will lay off workers."

"The Ministry of Health intends to continue with the same hours of work, but in reality service will be reduced from 24 to 8 hours, and the number of patients served will decline by 85 percent," said Negreros.

"The Ministry of Health is pretending that 20 people can perform the same task as 39, which is impossible. This is a setback to the country's health, because after having risen to a higher level of health care, this cut would reduce the health center to category B and patients with more serious conditions will have to travel over a hundred kilometers to reach the hospital in Puerto Barrios, a journey that will result in death for some, depending on the situation," said Negreros.

The municipalities affected are Amates, Livingston, Morales and El Estor, because they are the most remote areas from Puerto Barrios. According to local citizens, one is not "allowed" to get sick in these places because there is no quality services.

The austerity measures by the Ministry of Health would result in dismissal of nurses, ambulance drivers, laundry and maintenance staff. For now, the staff will continue at their posts with reduced their salaries. If a maintenance worker earns a salary of Q2,000, it must be reduced to Q1,000.

Del Monte Earnings Fall 45%

The profits of Del Monte Fresh Produce Inc. fell 45 percent in the first quarter of 2009 due to problems in the production of fruit from Costa Rica and Guatemala, it was learned yesterday.

In a communique published on page, Mohammad Abu-Ghazaleh, executive officer of the company, explained that climate problems hurt banana production in Costa Rica and Guatemala, as well as pineapple, in this last quarter.

These factors led to an earnings per share of $ 0.56 per share as of March 27th, below the $ 1.07 in the first quarter of last year.

"There were interruptions in our operations, a significant decrease in fruit quality, and higher production costs and logistics," added the executive.

The manager of the Association of Independent Banana Producers, Nery Moran explained that not all regions were harmed by the weather. He noted that the plantations of the South Coast had no problems, and that exports are continuing normally.

The full Del Monte quarterly report is here: