Tuesday, April 28, 2009

News From The Flu Front II

Here are the latest reports from Small Enchilada:

Saturday, April 25:
Everything is very ugly. We haven't left the house, although we went to the garden. Husband went to buy groceries since they say that yesterday it was crazy and we don't want to end up without food. We also don't want to go out to eat.
I wasn't able to find face masks (and here I am asking for the high performance ones, ha!) People are in a panic and they are misinformed. I read the WHO site and according to what it says, this really sucks. I suppose that due to the lack of infrastructure of the country they probably don't even know what to do or how to do it. I hope they send many international experts.
At the General Hospital there is no soap in the restrooms, the patients are not isolated and everything is "un desmadre", a mess (imagine if that's what comes out in the papers, what is really happening that we don't know about). A well known politician already has it and he is at a private hospital. His daughter is a classmate of Enchiladito. We're going to wait and see what else they say. It's not like we can run away... the kids don't understand anything. We already explained it to Enchiladito. If we flee, I'll let you know.
Meanwhile, I spoke to Enchiladito and he asked me if we had the virus here too.

Monday, April 27
Well they just gave a press conference in which they said that Stage 4 is to mitigate what's happening. The borders aren't closed yet.
The only foreigner (from AP) who asked why it took them so long to send the first samples to Atlanta or Canada, was answered Cantinflas style; that is, they turned the question around.
They are getting the equipment to analyze the virus quickly the day after tomorrow and if it turns out to be type A (whether it's swine flu or not), people will be given immediate treatment and then the samples will be analyzed more in depth. Why didn't they think of this before?
One hears very ugly stories about people who have gone to the hospital and they have been turned away, because they have nothing or because the hospital workers don't want to be infected. Many people called Channel 11 asking what to do, since they have symptoms. Apparently, they have no one to turn to, or they did and it didn't work. It's very sad.
The Secretary of Health says they are dying because they are getting to the hospital too late*. I say it's also because they were not diagnosed correctly. Equipment and organization are lacking. I'm very angry.
According to an acquaintance of a friend who works at the Social Security Institute, there's already like 800 deaths. Who knows. Let's see what they come up with tomorrow.
I already have 19 face masks imported from Houston, and also the undies**!

* Classic strategy: blame the victims.
** The Enchilada family posted a jolly picture of themselves wearing their underwear as face masks.

As I suspected, it's mostly the poor who are dying. Mexicans think that Mexico has no infrastructure. I think it does or at least it tries to have one. The problem is that it also has a penchant for utter disorganization. Order and logic are not its strong suit. The authorities should be telling people not to panic, so as not to create food and medicine shortages. They should be organizing against the consequences of panic. I don't think they are. President Calderón should be addressing the nation, calming people and reassuring them. I don't know that this is happening. If there is no soap in the government hospitals, the government should be asking the big soap companies, like Colgate-Palmolive or Unilever, to donate some. This should not be a problem.
Unfortunately, like many semideveloped countries where the disparity between rich and poor is abysmal, in Mexico there is general, and even official contempt for the poor (like in India or Brasil). If there weren't, somebody would do something to raise their standard of living somehow. In Mexico the government is content to let them move up north or to embark frequently on cosmetic populist campaigns that never really change anything.
It is not a country that is used to the free flow of information, even though this has improved in recent years. As you can see from the reports above, it thrives on rumor. People totally distrust the government, so on top of all the agita, there is also a terrible feeling of not having faith in the institutions, the government or even society itself. I think Mexicans have, on occasion, shown their nobility of spirit, as in the 1985 earthquake when they took it upon themselves to organize (utter chaos but at least they tried) when the government was asleep at the wheel. In a pandemic, obviously, the natural feelings of pity and solidarity take a back seat to saving your own skin, to actual mortal fear of anybody who has taken the subway. Which is why unfortunately, this time we may not see that empathy, and it may get very ugly.

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