Day 233 – Swine flu in Mexico

2009/04/27 § 2 Comments


I am currently evaluating the situation of swine flu in Mexico. My plan was to fly to Toronto from Mexico City, but now the situation has changed in that there might be either no chance to get to Mexico city easily or that the risk demands a change of plans.

As a friend of mine pointed out, when looking at the number of dead individuals which now is somewhere around 200 the risk appears small, as to compared to let’s say being run over by a car in Mexico.

However, the epidemic development of the past few days may indicate a near exponential increase of cases which in turn can change the above assessment within days. Considering the incubation time for the disease it is entirely possible that we will see a pandemic within the next two weeks.

On the other hand it maintains possible as well that the outbreak is temporary and stays restricted to some regions of Mexico.

If you have planned a flight check with your company. Mine for example (Mexicana) offers a change of the tickets from Mexico City. The situation is not clear yet as Mexican authorities are alarmed but have not yet blocked entrance to Mexico city. They may, some speculate, be about to do that though. Already gatherings of large crowds have been reported to be forbidden and travelers may be checked at train stations.

Check the WHO for more, the CDC or the Robert Koch Institut for info in German.

It seems hard to come by “good” info and a lot of Mexicans doubt that the goverment tells us the truth. For more comments by people from Mexico city check the BBC. Some excerpts:

A MD says: “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.”

A reader comments: “The situation in Mexico City is really not normal. There is a sense of uncertainty that borders on paranoid behaviour in some cases. At this very moment, Mexican TV is showing how military forces are giving masks to the people in the streets.”

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§ 2 Responses to Day 233 – Swine flu in Mexico

  • Patrick says:

    Oh, I really didn’t mean to downplay the potentially great problem.

    I just pointed out that so far only 20 people are really confirmed to have been died from A/H1N1 (WHO). The other number of hundreds relayed from one radio station to the other is simply the number of people that have died from something with influenca symptoms.

    There are people dying from influenca related complications, such as pneumonia, every day even without A/H1N1. You have to separate this number, the null-noise level if you like, from the total toll. Everything else is media driven hysteria — flat earth news (thanks, Nick Davies).

    Btw. does anyone know the typical level of “normal” influenca related deaths in cities like Mexico City? Couldn’t find it so far, and all media sources I have checked do not seem to care.

    The friend

    P.S. Be careful, mate, and look out for the cars 😉

    • davidkramer says:

      I did not take it as a downplay…I just realized that the evaluation of the potential risk may be not applicable for this specific virus, and must be expanded upon… 🙂

      Interestingly the dead are young people contrary to the usually old victims or kids who would be affected in other times of flu epidemics. Hence the excitement. The other thing is that this time of the year Mexico’s flu season would be expected to be over.

      Consequently, what you said about probabilities does apply, but with the important addition that it does not tell us anything about the possible development of this exceptional flu. When evaluating the potential risk it is therefore not enough to just look at the numbers of dead. Also because if this is a dangerous virus it is expected to kill two percent of its victims and not just 0.1% as the average flu virus.

      It would still be interesting to know how many people exactely usually die from flu this time of the year. Again, apparently less than the 20 (or 500 as some doctors here say) who have died so far… Generally information is the key problem of course. May be that some hype the panic, but here most people think that the opposite happens and believe the Mexican government downplays what really is going on. Who knows? MDs in Mexico city claim that complete chaos ensues.

      Interesting stuff… we shall see. Meanwhile I try to avoid the traffic… 😉

      Thanks my friend! 🙂

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