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Every weekend tens of thousands of soccer fans crowd into Mexico City’s stadiums to cheer on the city’s three teams and transform the grey concrete stands into a vibrant array of flags and song. But last weekend the
games were played in silence; not one spectator was allowed to enter.
As of April 27th, the swine flu outbreak in Mexico has caused the deaths of at least 100 people, with thousands more suspected to be ill with the disease. The sudden appearance, along with the rapid spread of the disease, has caused major concern around the globe, with several governments warning travelers to stay clear of Mexico.
The disease, caused by the influenza strain H1N1, is similar to the H5N1 strain that caused the bird flu panic in Asia a few years back. While not as deadly, this new strain appears to be much more transmissible between humans. Mexican health officials are working closely with the U.S. Center for Disease Control and have located the origin of the outbreak to be in the pig farming region of La Gloria in southeastern Veracruz; however, the spread of the swine flu has been so rampant that most of the country has been affected. Hundreds of cases have been determined throughout the central mountain chain, particularly in Mexico City and San Luis Potosi and as far south as Oaxaca. This, of course, makes sense since a highly transmissible disease will flourish in populous areas. Cases have also been reported in the northern Baja region, centering around Tijuana. Mexico City is in a near panic as the 4 million facemasks given out to prevent infection have been quickly used up. Riots have been reported outside some city hospitals.
This flu – aptly named with such a disgusting moniker – is a real threat to the health of the entire country. Incredibly, Mexico has canceled all school until May 6th in an attempt to prevent the gathering of large groups of children. This is an enormous country, and closing down every school in the country is something that doesn’t happen very often anywhere in the world. Additionally, most of the capital’s theatres are closing for the foreseeable future and the qualification tournament for North American youth national soccer teams has been called off. Thus is the seriousness in which the government is taking this situation.
The flu has now reached some of the tourist and expat hotspots along the Pacific coasts, most notably in Acapulco, where the usually vibrant nightlife has ground to a halt after the government ordered nightclubs and bars to close. Incidentally, there are fears that citizens from the capital, enjoying something of a vacation because of the school cancellations, will accidentally infect previously clean areas. And with the speed in which this disease is spreading such fears are rational.
U.S. officials have dismissed talk of strict travel restrictions to and from Mexico, as well as any border closures. They have, however, recommended that U.S. citizens think twice about traveling to Mexico unless it is essential, echoing the words of European governments. Its too early to tell to what extent the swine flu will spread, but with situation escalating on a daily basis, things may get worse before they get better. While the spread of this flu is alarming, the number of people infected is still relatively low, and the mortality rate is, for now, staying down. Don’t go buy a ton of bottled water and Spam and head for the bunker, but normal health precautions should be taken. We here at Latinworld.com want to keep the expat and retiree community up to date on this evolving problem, and will keep our readers updated with daily reports about the situation on the ground. Check back often.
Are you an expat or retiree living in Latin America? We want to here your story. What is your country, community, or family doing to stay healthy? Are you worried, or is this a exaggeration of the media? Tell us, and the world, your story below.
front photo provided by fchin123 at http://www.flickr.com/photos/fchin123/3484595995/sizes/o/
internal photo #1 provided by muisicneverstopped1 at http://www.flickr.com/photos/mnsblog1/3480234976/sizes/o/
internal photo #2 provided by victormahk at http://www.flickr.com/photos/79978901@N00/3475075969/