Tuesday, April 28, 2009

What is the Mexican Flu?

My readers want to know. And though they should not be consulting me, who have no credentials but my own common sense, here is what I know (from sources like CNN, The New York Times, the BBC and such).

The Mexican flu is a combination/mutation of swine flu, bird flu and human flu.
It seems the epicenter is Mexico City.
It is highly contagious and spreads rapidly.
You don't get it by eating pork. I love pork but even I don''t feel like carnitas right now.
The symptoms are like those of a regular flu: fever, joint aches, fatigue, respiratory trouble, sore throat. Apparently also sudden dizziness, nausea and diarrhea, as if you have the regular flu and a stomach flu on top. Awful.
If you have symptoms you need to get medical help immediately so that you can be diagnosed and treated. Tamiflu and Relenza are medicines that can cure it. If you have symptoms, stay home, drink lots of fluids and stay away from people.
The regular flu shot is not enough protection against it, but it may make symptoms milder, apparently because it fights the human flu part of the virus.
The best way to avoid it is by washing your hands frequently. And by avoiding shaking hands or kissing people. The virus lives in inanimate objects like telephones, computers, money, subway poles, or anything that somebody may have touched with his or her hand that came in contact with his mouth and nose, like any other flu. That is, if somebody infected sneezed into their hand and put that hand on a surface that you later touch, you may be at risk. I have no idea how long the virus survives on these surfaces, but obviously, long enough to spread quickly.
I've heard the incubation period is super fast, from four days to one day.
Apparently face masks are not much help. Infected people who cough and sneeze need to cover themselves with their elbow, or with a tissue they need to throw away immediately and wash their hands. If they do it into their hands, they need to wash with soap and water immediately, or use an antiseptic liquid.
The infection has spread beyond Mexico but only in Mexico are people dying from it. It is killing the healthy 20-55 year olds, more than the usually vulnerable populations of infants and the elderly. Apparently the healthy immune system mounts such an aggressive defense that it overwhelms the lungs, filling them with fluid, hence death.
Nobody understands why people are only dying in Mexico. Possibly because they are poor and by the time they seek help it's already too late.
Don't hold it against Mexicans okay?

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