May 26, 2009 / 1:28 AM / 10 years ago

Puerto Rico reports first confirmed H1N1 flu case

SAN JUAN, Puerto Rico, May 25 (Reuters) - Puerto Rico on Monday reported its first confirmed case of H1N1 swine flu — a 39-year-old man who had returned from a week-long eastern Caribbean cruise.

The Dominican Republic said it was stepping up testing of people with flu symptoms after a Russian tourist who had spent 12 days at Punta Cana, the country’s premier beach resort, was detected with the virus after he returned home.

The authorities in Puerto Rico, a U.S. Caribbean territory, said they were checking on the persons with whom the Puerto Rican man confirmed with the virus had been in contact after he came back from the May 10-17 cruise.

They did not give details of the cruise ship he had been traveling on.

"This isolated case should not be cause for panic," Puerto Rico Governor Luis Fortuno told a news conference.

Dominican Republic’s public health secretary, Bautista Rojas Gomez, said although none of the Caribbean state’s citizens had so far been diagnosed with swine flu, the case of the Russian indicated the virus was present in the country.

"The virus is circulating. In the last few weeks the number of tourists in the zone has increased enormously and although this is good for the country economically, this increases the possibility of the virus circulating further," Rojas said.

Two Chileans and a Peruvian student who had spent time at Punta Cana were diagnosed with swine flu after leaving the Dominican Republic, according to media reports.

Caribbean countries’ tourist industries have been hit by the global economic downturn and fears of H1N1 contagion could deal a further blow to economies that look to foreign visitors to earn valuable hard currency.

Mexico remains the epicenter of the H1N1 outbreak, which the World Health Organization says has been detected in 46 countries and has killed more than 90 people globally. (Additional reporting by Manuel Jimenez in Santo Domingo, writing by Pascal Fletcher; editing by Mohammad Zargham)

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