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Apr 26th, 2009 at 12:27 pm by Susie
Once again, it looks like the internet is ahead of the official media. Comments on a BBC News site paint a much grimmer picture than we’ve been led to believe about the swine flu epidemic in Mexico. And while I’m reluctant to assume all commenters on a news site are telling the truth, I don’t think we can completely dismiss this, either. After all, Mexican authorities, already reeling from a sharp drop in tourism, have a strong financial incentive to downplay the size of this problem.
For instance, there’s this from Antonio Chavez, a doctor working in Mexico City:
I’m a specialist doctor in respiratory diseases and intensive care at the Mexican National Institute of Health. There is a severe emergency over the swine flu here. More and more patients are being admitted to the intensive care unit. Despite the heroic efforts of all staff (doctors, nurses, specialists, etc) patients continue to inevitably die. The truth is that anti-viral treatments and vaccines are not expected to have any effect, even at high doses. It is a great fear among the staff. The infection risk is very high among the doctors and health staff.
There is a sense of chaos in the other hospitals and we do not know what to do. Staff are starting to leave and many are opting to retire or apply for holidays. The truth is that mortality is even higher than what is being reported by the authorities, at least in the hospital where I work it. It is killing three to four patients daily, and it has been going on for more than three weeks. It is a shame and there is great fear here. Increasingly younger patients aged 20 to 30 years are dying before our helpless eyes and there is great sadness among health professionals here.
From Alvaro Ricardez, Oaxaca City, Oaxaca, Mexico:
In the capital of my state, Oaxaca, there is a hospital closed because of a death related to the porcine influenza. In the papers they recognise only two people dead for that cause. Many friends working in hospitals or related fields say that the situation is really bad, they are talking about 19 people dead in Oaxaca, including a doctor and a nurse. They say they got shots but they were told not to talk about the real situation. Our authorities say nothing. Life goes on as usual here.
Migdalia Cruz, Phoenix, Arizona:
I have a sister-in-law from San Luis Potosi state in Mexico and we were told that in San Luis Potosi there have been at least 78 deaths, just in that city alone, not 68 in all of Mexico, as is being reported. Schools have been closed until 6 May in this state and in other areas in Mexico. Also, many public venues are being closed, so this makes it more deadly and dangerous than has been stated.
Yeny Gregorio Dávila, Mexico City:
I work as a resident doctor in one of the biggest hospitals in Mexico City and sadly, the situation is far from “under control”. As a doctor, I realise that the media does not report the truth. Authorities distributed vaccines among all the medical personnel with no results, because two of my partners who worked in this hospital (interns) were killed by this new virus in less than six days even though they were vaccinated as all of us were. The official number of deaths is 20, nevertheless, the true number of victims are more than 200. I understand that we must avoid to panic, but telling the truth it might be better now to prevent and avoid more deaths.
It appears that Mexican authorities are sitting on information in an attempt to keep people from panicking - and of course, people are panicking because they have no real information. It sounds like everyone’s assuming that any deaths among young people from atypical pneumonia or respiratory illness were caused by the flu - a not unreasonable assumption, given the lack of information that indicates otherwise. Young, healthy people do not typically die from the flu.
In the meantime, Veratect has activated a Twitter feed to more quickly update their public health clients, and this morning they’re tracking confirmed and suspected cases in Scotland, Costa Rica, Spain, France, Israel and New Zealand.
The strain identified here is milder and has not yet killed anyone, but in a pandemic flu, most of the deaths occur in the second and third wave.
Posted in Politics As Usual, The Best Healthcare in the World, The Body Electric