Mexico City tries to stop swine flu from spreading rapidlyPosted: Updated:
Mexico City's airport, the busiest hub in Latin America no doubt is a critical link in the spread of swine flu. Over a loud speaker, passengers about to board flights to U.S. and elsewhere are urged if you are sick "postpone your trip and visit a doctor."
It's the same calm, familiar voice that announces gate changes and delayed flights in a detached manner. It's a voice I know well from the many years I've spent flying in and out of this airport. And it's clear the pleasant woman's announcement is merely a suggestion for passengers who might be feeling ill. If past situations are any indication, my guess is someone with symptoms will get on the flight anyway and seek treatment at home.
Airport staff members are also handing out a small sheet of paper with a questionnaire listing symptoms and asking for contact information, presumably so health authorities can track down sick passengers later. Of course all of this is voluntary. Nobody is required to give that information and plenty of rushed travelers breezed by the guard at door who tried to hand them a form.
Growing concerns about a pandemic led Cuba and Argentina to suspend flights to Mexico. The World Health Organization's experts say it's too late for that since the virus is present in several countries and can easily jump from human to human, meaning you don't have to travel to Mexico, much less a pig farm to get it.
In fact there's some discussion about changing the name since this is not really a pure swine flu strain. It's a mix of swine, avian and the human virus. And as we've seen in Mexico it can be deadly for those who don't get treatment in time. In the U.S. the cases have been non-fatal until now. The CDC now confirms a toddler in Texas died from the flu. That child is from Mexico City and had traveled to Brownsville with his parents to visit relatives. The boy was transferred to Houston for treatment . Now, the CDC confirms there's a local case in the Houston area in Fort Bend County. The resident who is recovering was not hospitalized.
I'm reporting from Mexico City -- ground zero for the infection. I'm here with Photographer Hugo Perez and we came stocked with gloves, hand sanitizer gel, and face masks. There's some debate as to whether these masks offer much protection but plenty of people are wearing them. I bought these supplies at a border pharmacy in Texas, which was running out. It's clear -- the fear like the virus does not stop at the border.
We working in a city where the number of public places now off limits continues to grow...restaurants museums, movie theaters, gyms, bars, night clubs, sporting events, the pyramids and of more.
Our biggest defense: constant hand washing and a less friendly greeting. You don't realize how many times you shake hands or in Mexico kiss on the cheek -- until you realize those gestures are now also off limits.