Friday, April 24, 2009

Mexico calls for calm amid swine flu deaths

This is a very scary strain of flu. Where did it come from? A strange mixture of swine, avian and human. Kind of makes you think of a lot of things. Could it be man made? Could it be terrorism? These are some of the things that were being talked about today on several talk radio stations.

MEXICO CITY — Panicked residents of the Mexican capital on Friday rushed to hospitals looking for vaccines, bought out supplies of face masks and frantically pulled their children out of nurseries amid news that a lethal strain of swine flu may have killed up to 68 people.

The Mexican government called for calm while ordering a series of emergency measures to stop the spread of the virus and treat those suffering.

“This is highly contagious, it can be fatal and it has pandemic properties,” Health Secretary Jose Angel Cordova said at a news conference. “That is why we are taking these measures.”

Cordova said Mexican health officials had recorded 68 cases of people who had died of respiratory problems in the last few weeks. Of those, 20 have been confirmed to have been from the influenza. The other 48 deaths are being investigated.

All schools and colleges in the urban sprawl of 20 million were shut down until further notice for the first time since the catastrophic earthquake of 1985.

People were advised to stay in their homes as much as possible; to avoid shaking hands and giving greeting kisses; and to stay away from restaurants, cinemas and shopping centers.

The majority of fatal cases was in Mexico City, but there have also been deaths in the states of Hidalgo, Mexico, Oaxaca and San Luis Potosi.

While known as the swine flu, the virus is actually a new mutated strain of influenza that combines features of pig, avian and human viruses, health officials said. It has been designated H1N1.

“This started with pigs and has mutated to pass between humans,” Cordova said. “Now, we understand well what the problem is and how to treat it.”

Symptoms are reported to start as those of normal flu viruses but then lead to soaring temperatures of 102 degrees and head and muscle aches that leave victims virtually paralyzed.

The Mexico City government had started a campaign of immunization, but that was abandoned Friday afternoon after it was acknowledged the vaccines would not help resist against the new strain.

Instead, city hospitals were using the anti-viral drugs oseltamivir and zanamivir to treat patients who had been confirmed to have the virus.

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