HAVANA (Reuters) - A Mexican studying medicine in Cuba has been diagnosed with the island’s first confirmed case of H1N1 flu, the government said on Monday.
The student had returned from vacation in Mexico in late April when he came down with the illness that has infected thousands of people in at least 30 countries, the Public Health Ministry said in a statement read on state-run television.
No details were given on the student’s condition.
The ministry said that, in all, it had found 84 people from eight countries with flu-like symptoms and that they and 511 other people who had contact with them had been tested for swine flu.
Those tested include 14 Mexican students, all of them studying in a Cuban medical school, but only the one case had been confirmed so far.
The Cuban government has taken a number of measures to prevent the H1N1 flu virus from reaching the Caribbean island, which has a population of 11.4 million and is located 115 miles across the Yucatan Channel from Mexico, epicenter of the swine flu outbreak.
Cuba has stepped up medical vigilance at airports, ports and marinas and on April 28 banned flights from Mexico.
The suspension of flights upset Mexican President Felipe Calderon, who said in a television interview last week that he might cancel a planned trip to Cuba “as one of the unforeseen consequences of decisions that have no technical basis.”
In an Internet column published on Monday night, former Cuban leader Fidel Castro took offense at Calderon’s threat to cancel. Castro said the trip had already been suspended for reasons unrelated to the flu outbreak.
“What was the Mexican president complaining about, with relation to the measures that Cuba adopted according to established norms and without the slightest intention of affecting our Mexican brothers?” he asked.
About the flu, Castro wrote, “The only thing that can be confirmed now is that it wasn’t brought here by the CIA. It came from Mexico.”
The 82-year-old Castro was replaced as president last year by his brother, Raul, but retains a powerful voice through columns published in state-run media.
In recent years, Cuba has become a popular tourist destination, receiving 2.3 million visitors from around the world in 2008.
Communist-led Cuba prides itself on its free healthcare and the government often acts aggressively to keep people safe during natural disasters like hurricanes.
Reporting by Jeff Franks; Editing by Eric Walsh