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Mexico's First Swine-flu Patient Immortalized in Bronze

VERACRIZ, MEXICO (EFE).- The 4-year-old boy who survived what is thought to be Mexico's first case of infection with the AH1N1 flu virus has been immortalized with a bronze statue that will be placed in his native village to attract tourists to the area.

The statue called "Niño Cero" (Little Boy Zero), carrying a frog in its right hand as a symbol of one of the Biblical plagues, was created by sculptor Bernardo Luis Artasanchez, who went to the community of La Gloria in the Gulf coast state of Veracruz to live with little Edgar Hernandez and his family.

The sculpture, which stands 1.30 meters (4 1/4 feet) tall and weighs 70 kilos (154 pounds), was ordered by Veracruz authorities, who will give it a place of honor in the town as a symbol of victory over the swine-flu virus.

The work portrays a child who was cured and who represents the union of all Mexicans," Artasanchez told Efe. "The frog characterizes the virus, a growth extraneous to its surroundings, as one of the seven plagues of Egypt, but Edgar, with his innocence and nobility, has dominated that which at first was bad but in the end was benign."

In La Gloria, built on the slopes of Cofre de Perote, the eighth tallest mountain in Mexico, Artasanchez spoke with Maria del Carmen, the boy's mother, who said she saved the boy from the disease because when she saw he had a fever she hurried him off to the community medical center.

At the end of April, the town of La Gloria became the center of world media attention because of the story, never proved, that it was here the AH1N1 virus originated.

La Gloria residents still have that suspicion because 10 kilometers (6 1/4 miles) away is the industrial farm of the Granjas Carroll company, one of Mexico's biggest hog producers.

But the Mexican government has ruled out that possibility after a series of laboratory tests on the company's swine.

Up to now the flu outbreak has left 83 dead in Mexico and 4,458 people infected, according to the latest report from the federal health ministry.

Veracruz Gov. Fidel Herrera ordered the sculpture of Edgar Hernandez to make it one the town's main tourist attractions.

Just as Mexico is doing following its swine-flu outbreak, other countries have tried to put a good face on unpleasant events and there is even a strategy designed by the World Tourism Organization after the 9/11 attacks in the United States that advises such unfortunate countries on what to do to restore their image.

The unveiling of the statue is expected in the coming days as part of La Gloria's tourism promotion program.

"Never have so many people come to this community for a fair or a concert, and if more people come to La Gloria because of the statue, I will be the proudest man on earth," the sculptor said. EFE/ Edgar Avila.

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