Deadly Swine Flu Outbreak in Mexico City Prompts Fears of a Pandemic

By Eliza Strickland | April 24, 2009 4:05 pm

swine fluMexico City health officials took the drastic step today of closing schools, from kindergartens to universities, in an effort to control an outbreak of swine flu that has killed at least 16 people in the last few weeks. It was clear that Mexican health officials were alarmed. Besides shutting classes, the government urged people to avoid large gatherings and to refrain from the common greetings of a hand shake or kiss on the cheek. City buses continued to operate but some passengers were seen wearing masks, and a cough or a sneeze by one passenger prompted others to relocate [The New York Times].

Experts say that the swine flu virus, which usually infects just a few humans who are in direct contact with pigs, has mutated into a more dangerous form that can be passed between people, and fear that it could cause a pandemic.

Meanwhile, officials are scrambling to understand how the deadly Mexican virus is related to an apparently weaker strain circulating in the American Southwest, which is not known to have caused any deaths. The first two cases in the United States were reported on Tuesday in Southern California. There are now five cases in California, including the father of one of the original patients. The other two cases are near San Antonio, Texas…. “We believe at this point that human-to-human spreading is occurring” [ABC News], says Anne Schuchat of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. However, she stressed that the U.S. virus does not currently appear to be a cause for serious concern.

Although flu season is over in Mexico, health officials say they’ve recently seen a significant spike in flu-like symptoms, primarily among healthy young adults. That is a worrisome pattern because seasonal flus typically cause most of their deaths among infants and old people, while pandemic flus — like the 1918 Spanish flu, and the 1957 and 1968 pandemics — often strike young, healthy people the hardest. Doctors believe that is because young adults have more vigorous immune systems — which mount an assault on the new virus known as a “cytokine storm” — that may actually overwhelm the victim’s own lungs by causing inflammation and drawing in fluid [The New York Times]. Overall, there have been 60 deaths in Mexico in recent weeks in which the patients reported flu-like respiratory symptoms.

It’s still unclear how the Mexican and American flu viruses are related, but the U.S. variant, at least, has been described as an unusual strain never seen before in people or pigs. It contains human virus, avian virus from North America, and pig viruses from North America, Europe and Asia. Health officials have seen mixes of bird, pig and human virus before, but never such an intercontinental combination with more than one pig virus in the mix [AP].

The World Health Organization said on Friday that it was convening an emergency committee to advise whether outbreaks of swine flu in the United States and Mexico constituted an international public health threat. “WHO will convene, sometime in the very near future, an emergency committee” [Reuters], says WHO spokesman Gregory Hartl.

Related Content:
80beats: Bird Flu in Egypt and Swine Flu in California Raise Guarded Concerns
80beats: Number of Humans With Pig Ebola in the Philippines Rises to Five

Image: flickr / The Pug Father

CATEGORIZED UNDER: Health & Medicine
  • kitty

    hai swine flu is funny

  • bob

    poo poo is yummy

  • ykev

    this needs to be taken very seriously this kinda thing gets loose in an over-medicated society sitting on top of countries that still struggle for basic needs–well things could get dicey quick–and no,poo-poo is not yummy

  • Chris

    I’m living in Mexico City and there’s absolutely nothing funny about this.

  • Ana

    I’m scared, there is no cure for this right?

  • http://myspace.com/7rod amokat

    does that mean I have to stop eating bacon??

  • Day

    This are terrible news, my family lives in Mexico City, and I am very worried about them. It is true, classes were cancelled until further notice.

  • Ryan

    This sort of stuff is scary. What I think is most frightening about this for people in general is how futile any preventative efforts at an individual level are. The common cold with a mortality rate would be pretty bad stuff.

  • SJG

    What the difference between bird flu and swine flue.

  • Steven Tso

    This is one of the most serious pandemics ever. There is no cure, no vacination. Nothing. It’s too late to quarantine it also so it’s just gonna spread everywhere

  • Janet K

    Sounds more like the bad guys are experimenting on the population with such an unusual mixture of nasties. Naturally occurring, I don’t think so.

  • young one

    Obviously the airport needs to close all incoming and outgoing fights. Then take a victims blood and use it to mix up a vaccine…duh.

  • Christina Viering

    Can you imagine an entire city quarantined?

  • Rush Limbaugh

    see this is because of dirty mexicans

  • Nicole

    I live in Baja, we just came back form a trip to La Paz, me and My 7 month old son are now sick, congestion, stuffiness, coughing, sneezing, aches and pains (at least I have aches and pains) I kinda wish my head would fall off, the first day we both had fevers that broke at 102, but what are we to do now? do we go see a doctor?

  • Charles

    Nicole,

    See a doctor? No. It’s probably best to wait until you’re so sick that nothing will help. That way you can avoid any strain on your family, friends, or the state and make your own funeral arrangements.

    ARE YOU CRAZY?!?!?!

    Of course you should see a doctor!!! NOW!!! Not an hour from now – NOW!!!

    Anyone who wouldn’t bring a 7 month old infant with a 102 degree fever to a doctor should have the child taken away. That’s child abuse, in my book. Not to mention idiocy!

    If you can’t get to a doctor, go to your nearest hospital emergency room – NOW!!! Get off of your damn computer, and GO!

    I HOPE your message is a joke. If not you’re just plain stupid!

    Jeez… Some people…

  • Jennifer

    I just hope that the virus won’t spread further into the US.

  • robert

    This is going to lead to a mega pandemic!!! Everybody Run for the hills!!! no wait the flus already there!!! run somewhere else NOW!!!!

  • Ima Hog

    This probably got its start from the giant factory hog farms owned by people who live no where near them.

  • http://www.mavenmktg.com John

    Thanks for putting this together. If you’re looking for a collection of updates about the swine flu from several sources, check this out – http://www.swinefluoutbreaknews.com , they also have a map of where cases have been reported, on google maps.

  • http://www.coffeenomad.com Nomad

    this is definitely scary stuff, sounds a lot more serious than the peanut butter salmonella scares at the very least

  • KANGKUNG

    THE WORLD IS GOVERN BY AN EQUILIBRIUM. PROBLEM IS OVERPOPULATION. THE EARTH WILL FIND A WAY TO CONTROL IT.

  • KANGKUNG

    I HIGHLY RECOMMEND U ALL TO WATCH THE 11TH HOUR AND GET AN IDEA ON THE ENVIRONMENT PRESERVATION. ITS TIME TO KNOW AND ACT. SOMEHOW I FEEL THAT ITS DUE TO CLIMATE CHANGE EG BIRD FLU VIRUS AND SWINE VIRUS.

  • Percival

    It was created by the CIA. I hate to be the “conspiracy theory” geek here. But this is NOT the first time something like this has happened. Ebola? Remember that?

  • http://www.google.com heythere

    We don’t know what is going to happen over the few days of swine flu but all we know that our only hope is by praying and asking God. We have no vaccinations or medicines for this deadly flu. I honestly think we should be grateful for living in the areas that are not affected, and be prepared for the areas that are. Don’t over stress, be prepared, and know that maybe somehow we people will figure out a way. Just look forward to God coming, and pray for those people who are dieing in Mexico, and take action by keeping yourself and others clean. This isn’t anyone’s fault, we all get sick.

  • Jon

    this is very scary.
    the bodycount is rising fast.in the morning you will wake up and the tv will tell you more have died and then the next day and so on…its all over the world allready. pandemics dont spread like that. it was probly done at the same time everywhere. sounds like a weapon to me. i live in ohio and theres allready someone sick here. like i said . scary
    check this out
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Ewt0g_HPRus

  • jo

    ive just booked a summer holiday for me my husband and our 2 children to orlando, is it stil safe there….this has me kinda worried

  • http://blogs.discovermagazine.com/80beats/ Eliza Strickland

    These comments are pretty disappointing. Come on, people. While this outbreak is certainly worth taking seriously, panicking doesn’t help matters. Put away the conspiracy theories and the xenophobia and read some basic facts from the Centers for Disease Control or the World Health Organization.

    Researchers say that the virus is not present in pork, but that even if it was, cooking the meat would kill it.

    No one knows yet how serious the outbreak will be. While the number of deaths in Mexico is certainly scary (currently, researchers think that over 100 Mexicans have died from the virus), none of the cases outside Mexico have been severe, so far, and there have been no deaths reported in the U.S. Read today’s post for the full update.

    And bear in mind that some of the smartest and most dedicated medical researchers are already working on a vaccine.

  • Ian

    It’s probably a plot by right wing conservatives to cut down on illegal immigration from Mexico.

  • Ian

    30,000 a year die every year from flu in the USA, what’s the big deal about this one?

  • Adam C

    It’s the flu. Sometimes you get sick. But some people are always sick… with fear and panic–which is far worse than any strain of flu you can throw at me because it’s chronic and debilitating.

  • catherine

    this shit is scary!!i dont want to get infected

    for all the people that saying is cause of mexico then stop cause its everyones fault so stop hating.gosh

  • http://dungotone.piczo.com julie-pier morneau

    hi im julie ;
    the swine flu is my worst fear my bf is mexican n his whole fam lives in mexico :( i feel so bad n it dose say in the bibble (im not a religen person but)it says that all earth will become silent for a moment untill god will pick out the right ppl who deserv to live anyways kinda means that basicly … i smoke swear and all that . but im scared to death honestly , i live in saint john n.b. so i hope well not get that down here n we only got 3 yrs left to die i no for a fact look all thiss stuff up ppl i mean it its not a joke n i hope all ur friends,family members and so are all okay , n u are all in my prays from now it take this stuff serious ppl , no joking around anymore.

  • http://dungotone.piczo.com julie-pier morneau

    i ment we got 3 yrs to live im sorry my mistake.

  • http://TwoSistersArtandSoul Lisette Root

    It feels like a time of equilization to me. We all are one. I believe we are a strong species, but we will become even stronger if we help each other. Chaos is part of existance, and sometimes that is scary and hard to accept. I also question some of the things we are doing on our Earth that may contribute to problems like these. Is it really such a good idea to grow animals as well as plants in huge unnatural ways? I often think we are too shortsided, especially when it comes to a profit to be made. This could truly be a wakeup call. Let’s consider answering the phone.

  • Duey

    I agree with Percival, ever see the movie “Outbreak”.

  • finkle316

    [Moderator’s note — this comment has been deleted due to its vitriolic racism.]

  • Josh

    :D

  • Nancy

    Swine Flu is definitely not funny, and some of these comments are simply ignorant and narrowminded. My daughter and her family live in Mexico City as temporary ex-Pats. They are barricaded in their house with school and workplaces closed. They have all been sick and their 5 year old spiked a high fever and was lethargic over the weekend. They took him to the local hospital where they had no testing equipment to see if he had a viral or bacterial infection, no face masks and no anti-viral medicines available. They eventually found another hospital that had testing equipment, but no masks or medicines again but he had a bacterial infection. The adults risked their own health to go into two hospitals. There are thousands of people sick there with flu. We cannot ship anti-viral medicines there because of international rules and they cannot get them or even face masks now in Mexico. They will take an enormous risk of catching a strain of the flu on a plane or at the airport to fly home to the USA, but it may be necessary since they have no confidence that the already overloaded Mexican health system will be able to help them.

  • Gerald Arnoult

    The U.S. is lying about the so called swin flue, for political reasons (as always, they need someone to blame) in order to save face. “50 people have contacted the swin flu and not one has dead in the U.S.?” In Mexico, 100 people have died? The U.S. has more or less about 35,000 cases of the flu deaths per year, way more than Mexico. Those people in Mexico have dead for a smart flu Bomb that kills only Mexicans and spares Americans? The people who are dying from the flu in the U.S., the Medical establishment for Embarrassment and blame, In order to save face and promote the lies will simply say “it was some other flu. Is this some type of intelligent test? “MAN ARE AMERECANS STUPID” do you think you’re kidding the world? You’re not. Mexico knows exactly what you doing; they have a long History of Americas stupidity and crap. I don’t care if it’s the lizard flu the American who died or dead

  • Andrea

    Espero k el virus termine hay k pedirle a dios todo esto de la epidemia da miedo y la verdad es k todo esto ya esta escrito en la biblia sobre las epidemias, terremotos,huracanes etc. :(

  • Josh

    Nancy, I laugh at your suffering :D

  • CAnne

    The news media is a blessing-curse. Instant, incomplete information creates a reactionary response. If the news is disturbing, like a mutating viral flu, then tempers, emotions, ignorance & lack of compassion easily arise (see Josh’s statement above 11:27am- he lacks any sense of decency. How sad he has such a need to offend). Fear & panic grip some. Choose to be a person of common sense & good judgment. Some illness, such as this strain of flu, spreads person to person when an infected person coughs or sneezes during the time they are contagious. People not in the vicinity of the centers of contamination are not going to contract it. That is most of the world right now. Don’t reach uneducated conclusions about this rapidly changing story. Panic is the single worst reaction (followed a close second by lack of humanity in the face of other’s suffering). May God, whatever form that takes for you, bless each of you. Even Josh, who perhaps needs it most.

  • bonnie

    ok, people: CHILL. yes this is serious but its the FLU. people die of the seasonal flu too, but no one freaks out about that. and actually, there IS a vaccine for swine flu, hospitals just don’t have enough to distribute it to EVERYONE yet. and no duh you should go c a doctor if u have the symptoms! seriously people. GET A GRIP.

  • LEO

    CHILL OUT PEOPLE JUST STAY CLEAN AND HEALTHY
    PEOPLE ARE FREAKING OUT AND WELL THE BIBLE DID TALK THE LAST DAYS BEING BAD I MEAN LOOK AROUND U WARS RUMORS OF WARS THE ECONOMY SUCKS WORLDWIDE EARTHQUAKES ETC ETC PEOPLE JUST DONT WANT TO FACE THE FACTS THAT GOD IS REAL AND THE BIBLE DOESNT LIE.

  • Chris

    It’s cool to see people get all worked up about something, but being worked up without a plan is foolish.

    Make sure to have some supplies ready at home, food and clean water, this is just preparation for any disaster, if something gets truly out of hand you do not want to be caught in the disaster that being unprepared or trying to get things last minute will be.

    Today the WHO upgraded the pandemic alert to 5, which isn’t exactly a good thing to hear, be prepared for the worst.

  • Jake

    We are all going to die, Repent. The end has come.

  • Desiree

    Well this is SCARY!!!!! yeah, “”global warming and its effects””, all i can say,this is some real stuff and what can we do??? walk in a crystal bubble??? it is everywhere and just by breathing you can get infected yet there is nothing we can actually do to protect ourselves… I live in Puerto Rico and already we have two confirmed patients and 10 under investigation without counting those that r not known……. People its time to pray and wish….

  • http://YAHOO.COM alejandro

    omg!!!
    yea i know we all might die!! ja ja
    well just stay clean keep yals legs closed!
    dnt catch anything!
    lol so yea just watch out and lets all hope we make it thru….but if god really thinks its time for us to die fukk it we going to j/k dnt get frightin!
    well im in class so that sukks that some of yal aint in skool…but i guess take care….=]

  • Wolfie

    Seems to me, there is no disease more worrying for this planet than humanity itself.

  • http://www.swinefludeaths.co.uk Lisa85856

    Interesting stuff. Did you hear that there’s a new strain which is resistant to the anti-flu drugs? Tamiflu etc? Found a really good website for tracking it’s progress, seems to be updated every hour or so… http://www.swinefludeaths.co.uk.

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