Tuesday, April 28, 2009

South Valley Residents: The Flu Threat is Real, So Be Careful

From what we know so far, the new strain of swine flu coming from Mexico is not as deadly as avian flu, which had a mortality rate of about 50%, but, at 6%-8% mortality rate, is deadly enough to worry about. There have been no confirmed cases of swine flu in Cd. Juarez yet, but test results are being awaited in four cases under suspicion. Schools and day care centers in Juarez have been closed until May 7, along with major sporting events, museums, libraries, nightclubs, and bars. Universities have been closed as well. Movie theaters have not yet learned if they will be closed. Restaurants will remain open. Many people in Juarez are wearing face masks, which offer some, but not complete, protection, when going out in public.

The Mexican government has shown a high degree of responsibility and quick, effective responsiveness throughout the country in trying to contain the epidemic. Nevertheless, residents in El Paso and Southern Dona Ana County are much more likely to face possible exposure than residents elsewhere, due to the proximity to Juarez.

The threat here: Although I am not an expert, in my opinion there is a strong probability that swine flu has entered Juarez through the airport or bus or rail traffic. We will find out in the next few hours or days whether this has happened. Those persons with flu-like symptoms who have gone to a hospital for treatment, are not the problem, since they will be isolated from possible further contamination. The problem is those persons who came down with flu-like symptoms but had not yet heard the public messages before infecting others. If one or more of these persons crossed into El Paso to shop, they may well have infected people on this side.

Meanwhile, I would avoid going to Juarez unless you have important business there, and I would follow the advice given by authorities at various levels: wash your hands often, avoid casual hugs and kisses, be sure to cover your mouth when sneezing or coughing, and, if you have symptoms, such as a fever along with sneezing, coughing or runny nose, stay at home and call your doctor. If you have no doctor, call a hospital, you need to be checked out. There are medicines that can reduce your risk.

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