Mexican poor die of flu while world panics, say health activists

By staff writers
April 29, 2009

Health promoters, community and church workers in Mexico are asking why people in their country are dying from swine flu, while wealthy countries panic and the virus spreads around the world. The answer, they say, is that the poor are always the first victims.

So far, only Mexico has seen deaths as a result of the new strand of flu virus which has spread from livestock into the human population.

Some 145 deaths from cross-viral infections were estimated in the country over the past two weeks. 26 fatalities were then confirmed through initial tests. A further 2,000 have been predicted.

This morning the headline estimate went up to 159. However, a new, more rigorous epidemiological test has been introduced. So far it has linked 9 deaths to swine flu with surety.

Uneven health care, inadequate or out-of-date vaccines and slow responses from over-stretched services have been implicated in the deaths.

According to the World Bank, half of Mexico’s population was living in poverty in 2002 and the statistics have not improved greatly over the past seven years.

Current estimates are that approximately 55 million people live in poverty in Mexico, with some 22 million of those people living in extreme poverty.

The potential for the epidemic to cause devastation in poor regions is a dimension of the swine flu outbreak which needs much more attention, say health promoters.

Thee is also real concern about the wider impact of swine flu on Mexico's economy, which is heavily dependent on tourism. There has been a sudden decrease in visitors and this is hitting workers who rely on tourism-related income.

Experts say that a travel ban would not have any real impact on the the spread of the virus at this stage, and would be bad in other respects - medics and supplies coming into the country, for example.

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