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Americas: Region Responds to the H1N1 Virus

Even though the epicenter of the H1N1 virus outbreak has been in Mexico, other countries in the region are finding ways to prevent and combat it. Bloggers have been keen on taking a close look at what their governments are doing to alleviate fears, or whether they are responsible for adding to the concern. Others Latin American bloggers are observing the behavior of their fellow citizens, often using humor to cut through some of the tension.

As a result of the outbreak, many events and planned activities expected to draw large crowds were canceled and postponed, such as the New Winds Festival scheduled for April 23 – May 3 in the Mexican city of Ecatepec. Guatemalan blogger Alan Mills of Revólver [es] suddenly needed to find alternate plans, since he had been planning to attend the festival.

Photo of the Mexico Metro by Eneas and used under a Creative Commons license http://www.flickr.com/photos/eneas/3471986083/

Photo of the Mexico Metro by Eneas and used under a Creative Commons license http://www.flickr.com/photos/eneas/3471986083/

Many citizens are looking at the actions being taken by their governments amidst the heightened public awareness of the possibility of the virus arriving to their countries. In Costa Rica, which was the second country to report a case in the region, Hazel Feigenblatt of Quien Paga Manda [es] writes that the Ministry of Health is cracking down on pharmacies trying to capitalize by selling false medicines or fake vaccines. The Ecuadorian blogger at Dejálo Ser [es] questions the purchase of 150,000 doses of Tamiflu by a country that has yet to see the virus and whether the money might be wasted if they are not used and allowed to expire.

Luis Aguirre of Bloodyhell [es] criticizes the actions of the Peruvian Ministry of Health that announced that an Argentine citizen had entered the country with the H1N1 virus, but it was proved to be incorrect after testing [es]. However, the damage was already done because the government entity had also released the name of the person suspected of having the virus [es], which is something not done in other countries.

Photo of Tourists in Cancún by El Enigma and used under a Creative Commons http://www.flickr.com/photos/marca-pasos/3494017972/

Photo of Tourists in Cancún by El Enigma and used under a Creative Commons http://www.flickr.com/photos/marca-pasos/3494017972/

The behavior of others around them is a subject often written about in blogs. In Bolivia, Azael of Abre Los Ojos [es] recently came across a car with four passengers wearing face masks in the city of La Paz. The virus is not known to have reached the country of Bolivia, but he notes that the same people are not doing other simple things to prevent other mishaps, “What is difficult to find is people wearing their seat belts inside their cars.”

Velvet of Piso Tres [es] in Medellín, Colombia notes a particularly frustrating day riding public transportation due to the reactions of people around him.

Resulta que soy alérgico a los olores fuertes. Percibo un aroma de prefume muy concentrado e inmediatamente suelto el estornudo. Un estornudo de los clásicos, de los que no matan sino que te dejan aliviado y con sensación de placer. No tiene nada que ver con la gripa de los marranos. Claro, eso no lo saben los que viajan conmigo en el metro.

Hoy estornudé por culpa de un perfume malísimo que olí en el metro. Un señor del frente me miró con rabia asesina. Un niño miro a su mamá con mirada de mártir y abrazó su pierna. La señora me miró como diciéndome “¡homicida”! y se fue. La joven a mi lado -entre otras cosas la culplable de mi delicioso estornudo- se paró y se cambió de vagón. Otro señor cerquita sacó un pañuelo del bolsillo trasero y se tapó la nariz y la boca. En unos treinta segundos se formo un círculo imaginario a mi alrededor y sentí lo que debe sentir un leproso o un paria hindú.

Turns out that I am allergic to strong odors. If I catch a whiff of a strong perfume, I immediately sneeze. One of those classic sneezes, which doesn't kill, but leaves you relieved and with a sensation of pleasure. It has nothing to do with swine flu. Of course, those riding with me on the metro do not know that.

Today I had to sneeze because of a bad perfume that I smelled on the metro. A man in front of me looked at me with a killer contempt. A child looked at her mother with a look of a martyr and hugged her leg. The woman looked at me as if she were saying “murder!” and she left. The teenager at my side – in addition to being the one guilty for my delicious sneeze – stood up and changed metro cars. Another man close by took out a handkerchief from his back pocket and covered his nose and mouth. In a time period of 30 seconds, an imaginary circle formed around me and I felt what it must feel like for a leper or an Indian pariah.

Others try to use humor to put a lighter touch on the worry. Gandica of Venezuela writes about the “new image of death” and imagines what it might be like to be questioned in heaven about the cause of death [es]:

- ¿Y usted de qué murió?
Entonces la respuesta correcta debe ser:
- De la gripe AH1N1.

No vaya pues a cometer el garrafal error de mencionar que murió de influenza o gripe porcina -ya sabe AH1N1-nueva-gripe / H1N1- porque la industria-de-alimentos-carne-de-cerdo está muy sensible y pidió el cambio de nombre.

Joder. Como si el nombre gripal tuviera mucha importancia en estos momentos sobre lo que se nos viene encima.
¡Son pues vainas de nosotros los humanos, siempre tan cuidadosos con la imagen-relaciones-públicas!

- And what did you die of?
The correct answer should be:
- of the AH1N1 virus

Don't commit the monumental error of saying flu or swine flu – you already know AH1N1 – new flu / H1N1 – because-the-pork-industry is very sensitive and asked for the name change.

Damn. As if the name of the flu is important in these times. They are the dumb things human do, always so careful with our image and public relations!

Julio Córdoba of Ciencia Ficción [es] in Costa Rica publishes a fictitious advice column responding to readers concerned about the virus.

“¿Usted cree que me muera?” Anónimo, San José.
R/: De la gripe no, en un asalto en San José sí.

Do you think I'll die? Anonymous, San José (the capital city)
Response/: Of the flu, no…in a robbery in San José, yes.

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