Living through the Swine Flu epidemic – a perspective from Mexico
PLoS production and editorial staff are in close contact with our soon to be published authors around the world and they often get to know them quite well during the to and fro of correspondence. A scientist from Mexico, who has a book review article that has been accepted for publication and will shortly be published in PLoS Biology, told us what it is like to live and work there at the current time, and we thought that we would share that with you.
“Although it is said that Darwin was a bit of a hypochondriac, microbes are conspicuously absent in his writings and in those of his circle of close friends and colleagues. Caught in the middle of the celebrations of Darwin’s bicentenary, the inhabitants of Mexico are now painfully aware that the unexpected emergence and rapid spread of the swine flu epidemic demonstrate that we live in the midst of an evolving microbial world and that our individual health and collective well-being depend on it.
I have been in Mexico City since the beginning of the crisis, and thanks to my friends who are physicians, I quickly became aware of the risks, but nothing had prepared me for the impact of seeing the streets, parks and gardens empty, the schools, cinemas, restaurants and churches closed, and increasing numbers of people with the mouth covered and a look of disbelief and uncertainty in their faces.
Mexicans do not shy away from physical contact: we express our affections by embracing, kissing, shaking hands and holding relatives, friends and specially children closely. The knowledge that the spread of the swine flu virus can be limited by avoiding close physical contact is changing quickly the way we relate, but two days ago the press agencies distributed a photograph of a young Mexican couple kissing tenderly with their protective masks on.
We always find ways to overcome hard times. Let us hope we continue to do so”.