Saturday, April 25, 2009


You may be wondering what effect it's having on people who just flew in from all the corners of the earth to take a cruise, to find out that going home they're going to encounter a new airport dilemma. We are out here in an idyll and on the way home will be questioned about flu-like symptoms, all the while we're encountering some kind of exposure in these ports like, Rome today, Pompeii tomorrow, and on to Malta, some islands, then back to Barcelona. All the while, an epidemic has struck back at home in Texas and neighboring Mexico with its constant contacts with my world there. Yes, I will inquire about getting a flu shot, today when the medical center opens at 4 p.m. shipboard time - about 3 a.m. in Texas.

Museums, libraries, theatres, schools and universities were shut in Mexico City yesterday after the spread of a hitherto unidentified strain of flu, which has so far killed as many as 60 people and raised fears of a pandemic.

Authorities acted to try to control the spread of swine flu, which the World Health Organisation said had killed up to 60. Around 800 people have the "influenza-like" symptoms, the WHO said.

Mexico's government said at least 20 were confirmed to have died of the illness, and it may have been responsible for 40 further deaths. There have also been seven reported cases of the same virus in the United States: five in southern California and two in Texas. All those patients have recovered.

"This is a new virus," health minister José Ángel Córdova said in an interview with MVS radio. "We have taken these measures because this is a virus that has the potential to become a pandemic."

The minister said most of those infected were in the Mexico City metropolitan area, which has a population of 20 million, although three other Mexican states have also been affected to a lesser degree.

He said the authorities were considering extending their precautions to include shutting workplaces as well as schools, but for the moment urged employers to be tolerant of absences.

While he believed the situation was "very worrying", he also thought the epidemic was controllable.

The impact of the preventive measures on city life was felt immediately as the population woke up to news of the epidemic, announced in a late-night statement.

Radio and TV stations repeated official advice to stay away from crowded places "unless urgently necessary", and to seek medical help at the first sign of the very high fevers and acute respiratory symptoms associated with the illness.

At the city's biggest airport, airlines began requiring passengers checking in for national and international flights to fill out forms to help decide who could be at risk of carrying the virus. Anybody deemed to be a risk was reportedly being asked not to fly.

The passing of flu from swine to human is a new development, I heard today via BBC news. While I'm pretty far away from the point of its outbreak, there's no way of avoiding contact with it. As I mentioned before, in airports and in the ports we're visiting, we're meeting germs - oops, sorry, carriers - from everywhere, and will no doubt run into the usual unforseeable possible threat of diseases of all sorts. It's been a bit sobering to know that a pandemic we've always heard about has arrived.

The world has contracted for us all to just about one big contact point. No, it's not flat, it's a pinhead.

Good luck, and have you had your shots?

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