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Mexico says swine flu outbreak easing off - 2


(Updates data in para 5, adds Russia's meat ban in paras 7-11)

MEXICO CITY, May 4 (RIA Novosti) - The Mexican government has said the swine flu outbreak has peaked in the country and is now in decline, with a confirmed human death toll of 22.

Health Minister Jose Angel Cordova told reporters on Sunday: "The evolution of the epidemic is now in a phase of decline."

According to the latest data, "578 people have been officially confirmed as infected with the H1N1 virus, of whom 22 have died," he said. Health authorities had earlier suspected over 150 fatalities due to the virus.

The spread of the virus peaked between April 23 and 28, Cordova said. Seven men and 15 women have died in Mexico, mainly in Mexico City.

The number of swine flu cases worldwide has reached 985 in 20 countries, according to WHO data, the vast majority in Mexico, the United States and Canada. Spain has reported 40 cases.

The Egyptian government has begun a highly controversial pig cull, despite assurances from the WHO that swine flu cannot be passed to humans via cooked pork. The cull has prompted clashes between farmers and police trying to seize the animals.

Russia, which has banned raw pork imports from several U.S. states, extended the ban on Monday to South Carolina, classed as "risk zone 1".

Russia and China, which jointly buy 20% of exported American pork, have so far blocked pork imports from California, Texas, New York, Alabama, Arizona, Arkansas, Georgia, Indiana, Kansas, Louisiana, New Jersey, New Mexico, Ohio, Oklahoma and Florida.

The Russian agricultural regulator Rosselkhoznadzor said the extended ban "applies to products produced after May 1."

Russia has also banned pork from Spain and three Canadian provinces - British Columbia, Nova Scotia and Ontario - which Rosselkhoznadzor listed as "risk zone 2".

The U.S. has urged Russia and China to lift their ban, citing the WHO's statements on the safety of pork.

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