Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Swine flu in Guadalajara Mexico

Congressmen wearing surgical masks, from

All the schools in the country have been ordered closed for two weeks, and all the cinemas as well. On Sunday, the hugely popular Mexican soccer league played its games before empty stadiums, by order of the government.

Bars and nightclubs are closed but restaurants and cafés are open. I had lunch yesterday with a newspaper editor in a nice restaurant and the waiter told us business was down.

People are wearing surgical masks everywhere, despite the fact that the virus is so small that it can pass through the fibers.

Cindy is not sick, I´m not sick and nobody I know is sick. However, there are reports of some two dozen people being hospitalized in the state of Jalisco, where we live. A friend of mine who works at the U.S. Consulate here says a couple of their employees were hospitalized with symptoms like those described for swine flu.

Yesterday the streets of Guadalajara were busy with traffic, people were going to restaurants and cafés, some of whose employees (but not even most) were wearing surgical masks.

In the corner 7-11, one clerk was wearing a mask and two others were not.

Some political observers point out that this is an important election year (not for the president) and that the PAN party of Felipe Gonzalez is trying to show leadership.

I´m not trying to minimize the seriousness of this. I´m just trying to say what I´m seeing and hearing.

The lesson of Hurricane Isabel
In 2003, Hurrican Isabel was headed toward Baltimore and the TV weather reporters went into full-apocalypse mode. As we headed home in the rain that Friday night, it appeared to be one more example of TV creating panic to get viewers.

But on Sunday morning, we saw pictures of flooding in Downtown Baltimore, where a tidal surge combined with winds from Tropical Storm Isabel to push the harbor´s water level 9 feet above normal. The basement of our office building flooded, knocking out the electrical systems and unleashing a flood of hundreds of gallons of kerosene that was supposed to feed the emergency electrical system.

We couldn´t enter the building for a week. We had to put out the paper virtually, from the company´s Washington newspaper office.

So I´ve learned not to make fun of these disaster scenarios, at least not too much. It doesn´t look like a disaster until it affects you directly.

This is pretty funny...

And this photo, which suggests an alternative when the surgical masks run out.

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