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Mexico flu deaths at 149 and rising

Mexico closes schools nationwide as virus continues to spread.

A woman wears a mask as she walks in front of the closed Metropolitan Cathedral in Mexico City. Fears of a global swine flu pandemic grew with new infections in the United States and Spain on Monday. Millions of Mexicans hid indoors to avoid the virus. Mexico City, one of the world's biggest cities, practically ground to a halt with restaurants, cinemas and churches closing their doors and millions staying at home as officials tested 1,300 suspect cases. (Eliana Aponte/Reuters)

MEXICO CITY — Looking through a glass door at her eldest son sleeping between tubes of fluids and heartbeat counters, Juliana Derbez could not hold back the tears.

When the normally healthy 32-year-old had fallen sick seven days earlier, the family thought it was regular flu and gave him cough remedies from the pharmacy.

But after the government called a national alert over a potential pandemic, they rushed him to the Mexican Institute for Respiratory Diseases where doctors believe he has the swine flu, known medically as H1N1 influenza.

Despite two days of taking antiviral drugs, Derbez's son, whose name his mother asked not be published, was still in an unstable condition Monday, barely conscious and struggling to breathe.

“This is like a nightmare happening,” said the 55-year-old housewife, drying her wet eyes above a blue paper facemask that covered her mouth and nose. “I just put my trust in God that he will survive.”

Derbez is one of thousands of family members praying as the numbers of people infected and dying from the swine flu in Mexico keeps shooting up.

On Monday, Health Secretary Jose Cordova said there were 149 deaths believed to be from the virus and 1,995 people who had been taken to hospital with signs of the killer bug.

Of these, 1,070 had successfully responded to treatment and been released while 776 were still fighting the flu in their hospital beds.

The numbers show a steady and alarming increase, compared to a figure of 81 deaths and about 1,000 infected just 36 hours earlier.

Cordova said that patients are responding positively to antiviral drugs, known in Mexico as oseltamivir and zanamivir, and those who died were already in an advanced state of symptoms before treatment.

But with the death toll rising so sharply, this did little to console those who had come to clinics to see their loved ones.

“We want to come here to show support and help them fight this,” said Reynaldo Vertiz, waiting with his family to see his brother-in-law. “He would do the same for us.”