Mexico Grapples With Flu as Pandemic Fears Fly

By Caroline Miller,  Newser Staff
Posted Apr 25, 2009 7:13 AM CDT
Mexican Army soldiers hand out surgical masks to people in cars at an intersection in Mexico City, Friday April 24, 2009. Mexican authorities said 60 people may have died from a swine flu virus in Mexico,...   (AP Photo/Alexandre Meneghini)
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(Newser) – Schools and museums are closed, sold-out soccer games are being played in empty stadiums, and health workers are ordering sickly passengers off subways and buses. At nightclubs, teenagers are dancing with surgical masks on. Mexico City is grappling with what authorities fear is ground zero for a global epidemic of a new kind of flu—a strange mix of human, pig, and bird viruses that appears to have killed 68 people and has sickened more than 1,000.

The same virus also sickened at least eight people in Texas and California, though there have been no deaths north of the border, AP reports. Health officials are testing 75 students who came down with flu-like symptoms in a New York City high school. Scientists have warned for years about the potential for a pandemic from viruses that mix genetic material from humans and animals. This outbreak is particularly worrisome because deaths have happened in at least four different regions of Mexico, and because the victims have not been vulnerable infants and elderly.