Earthquake and Flu Panic in Mexico

Mexico Earthquake quake-reading1

A 22-year-old social worker in Mexico told reporters the series of catastrophes plaguing her country and the world are adding up to “the Apocalypse.” It’s easy to understand the gloom and doom outlook, especially after a 7.8 earthquake shook up people already gripped with fear from the swine flu outbreak, killing at least 29 and injuring more than 160. The Mexican Red Cross says many of those killed in Colima lived in fragile adobe buildings that collapsed, while two others died of a heart attack.

Mexico’s President Vicente Fox visited Colima on Wednesday to assess the damage and federal authorities pledge to rebuild the hardest-hit areas by establishing of a $2 million reconstruction fund. Many houses have fallen and bridges have been damaged.

It’s pretty Mexico needed a break, not a quake, as the death toll from the swine flu outbreak rose to 150 with 2,500 illnesses reported. According to CNN, The World Health Organization says at least 105 cases have been confirmed worldwide, including 64 in the United States; 26 in Mexico; six in Canada; three in New Zealand; and two each in Spain, the United Kingdom and Israel. WHO has confirmed deaths only in Mexico, where seven people have died from swine flu.

Many of the flu victims otherwise healthy teens and young adults with strong immune systems. Apparently, it’s the body’s response in those with strong systems that can cause a fatal reaction due to the body’s build up of antibodies fighting the flu in the lungs. As a result of the crisis, much of Mexico City has shut down and armed police are guarding hospital entrances to control the population.

The World Health Organization has raised its pandemic alert level from three to four on a six-level scale in response to the outbreak of the flu that originated in Mexico but has since spread to the United States, Canada, Spain and Scotland. In New York, a group of kids who visited Cancun have become ill and we keep hearing similar stories of Americans coming back sick from Mexico.

Here in the U.S. the CDC is letting us know what we can do to best protect ourselves from the flu. First and foremost, we should frequently wash out hands. Here is a list of guidelines posted on the CDC web site to help the public prevent and treat the flu:

What You Can Do to Stay Healthy

There are everyday actions people can take to stay healthy.

  • Cover your nose and mouth with a tissue when you cough or sneeze. Throw the tissue in the trash after you use it.
  • Wash your hands often with soap and water, especially after you cough or sneeze. Alcohol-based hands cleaners are also effective.
  • Avoid touching your eyes, nose or mouth. Germs spread that way.

Try to avoid close contact with sick people.

  • Influenza is thought to spread mainly person-to-person through coughing or sneezing of infected people.
  • If you get sick, CDC recommends that you stay home from work or school and limit contact with others to keep from infecting them.

As we wash, hide from crowds and get treated fast, Fox News quoted CDC head Richard Besser promising the government is doing its part, as well, by screening for the flu at U.S. borders. “What we’re going to be doing at the borders starting today is doing passive screening, asking people about fever and illness, looking for people who are ill and handing out cards that let people know what’s going on in Mexico and what’s going on here so people can take action to protect and prepare,” Besser said.

It appears they are doing the same thing in Tokyo, using heat sensors at airports to detect fevers in travelers, a pro-active approach to keep the flu from spreading there as well.

Luanne Bradley

Luanne Sanders Bradley is the West coast Editor at EcoSalon and currently resides in San Francisco, California.