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Little Boy at the Center of a Viral Storm

Five-year-old Edgar Enrique Hernandez, who got sick in late March, is the earliest confirmed case of the swine flu virus in Mexico.

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"It happened in one week. It was worse than normal," said Valentino Fernández, 32, who was at the clinic with his sick daughter Tuesday. "It was the contamination from the farms, from the pigs. It comes in the air."

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Vianney Guerra, a doctor at the clinic, said she was not authorized to talk about the flu outbreak. "We are taking preventive measures, we are informing the population, we are going house to house giving vaccines," she said. "Édgar is fine. He's in his house."

Mexican Health Secretary José Ángel Córdova said Monday that officials were not aware of swine flu during the outbreak in the La Gloria area. Once the new strain became known, he said, they retested some people and just one of them, a 5-year-old boy, tested positive for swine flu. But residents said two young children died of their illnesses last month and were buried in a flower-strewn cemetery in the village.

After the outbreak, authorities here fumigated the streets and houses, gave checkups to the patients and distributed vaccines, though officials have not identified a vaccine for swine flu. Health officials said 35 of the people who fell ill were tested for swine flu, so others might be infected.

Hernández, like Lezana, said her son Édgar was one of the last children in the village to fall ill. When he did, the disease moved quickly.

She walked him to the village health center, she said. Édgar was treated with amoxicillin and other medications, and after four bedridden days, his illness disappeared as quickly as it had started, she said.

After he had recovered, Hernández said, other doctors continued to come home to test Édgar. But they always said the boy was fine, she recalled.

Édgar's 3-year-old brother, Jonathan, was briefly sick but not as seriously, and his mother thought the worst was over. Because she does not have a car, a computer, a phone or a radio, and dislikes the television news because it broadcasts only tragedies, she heard very little about the disease that began killing people by mid-April in Mexico City and spreading around the globe.

On Monday, all that changed. The governor of Veracruz, Fidel Herrera Beltrán, arrived at her one-bedroom concrete house at the intersection of two dirt streets and informed her that tests in the United States showed that Édgar had swine flu. The mayor of Perote has also visited, as well as an official from Granjas Carroll de Mexico, she said. She said one doctor continues to tell her that Édgar never had swine flu.

"I feel powerless," she said. "Why did the other children not have it and my child did? He was one of the last to get sick."

Édgar still has a cough, but he has regained his energy and on Tuesday he ran around happily.

"My children have always been healthy," she said. "My children are a blessing, they are a blessing from God."

Staff writer William Booth and special correspondent Gabriela Martinez in Mexico City and staff writers Shankar Vedantam and Ceci Connolly in Washington contributed to this report.


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