On the front lines in Mexico's Flu FightPosted: Updated:
Standing near visibly sick, sniffling, coughing people of all ages -- you get a real sense of the magnitude of this health threat. I spent the day at a mobile clinic in Mexico City with photographer Hugo Perez. This specially equipped medical van is part of a fleet of 110 roving Mexico City screening for swine flu.
It's called the "Caravan of Health." And People started lining up early this morning at the van parked outside the Palacio de Bellas Artes, Mexico's Fine Arts Palace. That's where we found 4year old Daniel and his parents. His mother, Sara Farias, said they brought Daniel here because has a runny nose, cough and possibly a fever. "It's worrisome," said Daniel's father Jose Campos as the family waited to see a doctor who was working inside the van which is set up like an examination room.
Outside healthcare workers took information and temperatures. Shaking a thermometer clinic worker Juan Miguel Hernandez said a fever was a "very, very important symptom." But it's just one symptom. The mobile clinic staff looks for 3 or more flu-like symptoms, collects samples for testing and will send people to a hospital if necessary.
Once inside the van, the doctor had good news for little Daniel. He has a common cold -- not the flu that has killed people in this capital city. The "caravan of health" serves another purpose, the samples collected, and any cases detected will help health authorities in Mexico gage the spread of the virus.
To prevent further cases Mexico's president shut down all non-essential federal government services starting Friday May Day through May 5th, Cinco de Mayo.
On national television last night President Calderon told people to stay home during the long holiday weekend, not to travel. "You're safest at home with your family," said President Calderon.
I know there's a lot of concern about people traveling across Mexico and the border. The state of Guerrero asked Mexico City residents to stay away from Acapulco, a popular destination. To make it less appealing, the city closed down bars and nightclubs.
And I also realize some in the U.S. want to close the border and ban flights from Mexico. The World Health Organization says it's too late for that. The virus is in the U.S. And remember nearly all of the flu cases in the U.S. are Americans who traveled to Mexico and then got sick. As worried as some people are about this flu, I don't think anyone is suggesting we try to stop Americans from coming home.
What we can do is take steps to prevent catching the virus and not panic. Remember the flu is treatable.