Swine flu prompts early school vacations in Peru

LIMA (Reuters) - Peru’s government announced on Thursday that millions of school children would have winter holidays two weeks earlier than scheduled to help stop the spread of H1N1 flu.

The South American nation, which has reported 1,331 cases of the new virus, known as swine flu, including three deaths, also said students should stay home during their holidays, which will begin on July 15 for public and private schools.

Vacations normally start in late July.

“During this time, children should not act like they would during any other vacation. They should stay in their homes and not go to public places,” Health Minister Oscar Ugarte told reporters.

Argentina, which has the highest number of flu deaths in South America, said it would take similar action last month when authorities brought forward winter school vacations in the capital Buenos Aires and surrounding Buenos Aires province.

Ugarte said about 75 percent of confirmed cases of swine flu in Peru have been in those under the age of 18.

The virus has spread worldwide since surfacing in Mexico and the United States in April, infecting about 95,000 people.

Reporting by Marco Aquino; Writing by Dana Ford; Editing by Paul Simao