Community Comment

FRIDAY, MAY 1, 2009, 2:42 P.M.

Swine flu hysteria…

A tourist sits among empty beach chairs in Cancun May 1, 2009. The flu outbreak is hitting Mexico's tourism industry, which accounts for roughly 8 percent of the economy. Many groups of foreign tourists and students left the country earlier than planned due to the spread of influenza A (H1N1), formerly referred to as swine flu. REUTERS/Gerardo Garcia (MEXICO HEALTH TRAVEL) (The Spokesman-Review)
A tourist sits among empty beach chairs in Cancun May 1, 2009. The flu outbreak is hitting Mexico's tourism industry, which accounts for roughly 8 percent of the economy. Many groups of foreign tourists and students left the country earlier than planned due to the spread of influenza A (H1N1), formerly referred to as swine flu. REUTERS/Gerardo Garcia (MEXICO HEALTH TRAVEL) (The Spokesman-Review)

Good afternoon, Netizens...


This time of year, Cancun, Mexico is typically bustling with touristas. Compare that mental image to this picture shot yesterday.


Is this hysteria we see unfolding before the National News Media? What about the people in Mexico who have died of Swine Flu Virus? Are more people here in the United States going to die of Swine Flu? There are a lot more questions and even a tinge of hysteria in the News Media about Swine Flu that perhaps do not apply to health care in the United States.


Adela María Gutiérrez fell ill in the beginning of April with what she thought was a bad cold. She tried aspirin, antibiotics, bed rest and moist towels, but nothing brought down her soaring fever, reduced her aches and pains, or boosted her energy level.


It would be more than a week before Mrs. Gutiérrez, a mother of daughters ages 10, 17 and 20, went to Oaxaca’s General Hospital, where she arrived listless and barely able to breathe, her extremities blue from a lack of oxygen. Thus, because she waited to get medical assistance, she became the first victim of Swine Flu (H1N1) to die. The mindset in Mexico seems to be, according to various medical sources, that you wait until you have tried everything else before you go see the doctor. That, rather than hysteria, may be why people are dying of the latest variant of Type A flu.


Furthermore, Mexico's public health budget is approximately 3% of their gross domestic product -- within the range of spending by other major Latin American economies, but well below the rate in developed countries such as the United States. Mexico has only about half as many hospital beds per capita than the United States. Hospital overcrowding in Mexico is common everywhere you look and sometimes medical help is hard to get.


In an acknowledgment that Mexicans frequently act as their own doctors, the government’s announcements, played repeatedly on the radio, advise people not to self-medicate and instead to seek out medical attention.


There is a lot of confusion about H1N1 flu virus, but several facts stand out rather clear: disease forecasting — like weather forecasting — is more of a guide to what might happen rather than a certain prediction of what will happen. Of course we remember how people ignored the hurricane warnings that preceded Katrina, don't we?


Heed the warnings, but be shy about accepting hysteria. (Portions New York Times)


Dave








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Spokesman-Review readers blog about news and issues in Spokane written by Dave Laird.