Mexico heads into one of its big holiday weekends, but fiesta looks likely to be off the menu as fear stalks the streets. The potentially deadly swine flu variant H1N1 is the cause, and the president has called on people, government offices and non-essential businesses to take a five-day break from Friday in an attempt to stop the ravaging virus’s reproductive cycle.
“Friends, I want to ask you all that in these days of the long holiday weekend we are going to have to stay at home with our families from the first to the fifth of May, because there is no safer place to avoid contagion of swine flu than in your own home,” said President Felipe Calderon on national television.
The virus has travelled a long way since it reared its head in La Gloria, a village in the south, and spread. But where it came from remains a mystery. Little Edgar Hernandez was the first infected at the end of March, and he recovered. There is a big pig farm nearby, but owner US giant Smithfields foods says it is clean.
“The fact that according to genomic analysis, the segment of the genome that belongs to swine in this new virus is clearly linked to a kind of swine that you can only find in Asia and Europe, so we cannot rule out that hypothesis,” said Mexico’s chief epidemiologist.
The five-day break is a further blow to Mexico’s economy, which may have shrunk by as much as eight percent in the first quarter. The peso lost nearly two percent on Calderon’s announcement, but few may care in the fight to save lives.