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A Masked Pandemic - Living in the midst of the swine flu

A Masked Pandemic - Living in the midst of the swine flu

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Published by Kara
While sitting in a school with no students I decided to write a point of view essay based on what it feels like to be living near the epicenter of the swine flu.

I am not in Mexico City, where most of the cases are, but it is here in my city. There are, from what I have heard 4 people in the hospital not three blocks from where I am sitting at this moment. There is actually a lot more factual data circulating in the United States as far as I can tell, but this isn't about information- this is about perpective and lack of information where the information belongs.

My hope is that you find this interesting.
I love comments (even if their bad- though of course I like good feedback better) so feel free to leave one for me.

THANKS>
While sitting in a school with no students I decided to write a point of view essay based on what it feels like to be living near the epicenter of the swine flu.

I am not in Mexico City, where most of the cases are, but it is here in my city. There are, from what I have heard 4 people in the hospital not three blocks from where I am sitting at this moment. There is actually a lot more factual data circulating in the United States as far as I can tell, but this isn't about information- this is about perpective and lack of information where the information belongs.

My hope is that you find this interesting.
I love comments (even if their bad- though of course I like good feedback better) so feel free to leave one for me.

THANKS>

More info:

Published by: Kara on Apr 28, 2009
Copyright:Attribution Non-commercial

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02/01/2013

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A masked pandemicBy Kara Rae Lazcano-Huff I have been fortunate enough in my lifetime to never have lived in a time where aperson had to live in fear of an illness that they couldn’t control. I grew up learningabout such things as AID’s and STV’s, Malaria in Africa and cancer, which are alldangerous and often times life threatening, but preventable or at least notcontagious if you come within two feet of someone.I look back through history and see times when people lived in fear of deadlyviruses and diseases that are contracted like a head cold. I could have neverimagined what it was like to not want to be around other people, chatting andhaving conversation, because you’re afraid that you’ll get sick- To be afraid to beoutside in public and to be fearful of all the things that you don’t know about what’sgoing on and your lack of control over it.But that was last week. This week is different. Last week I was talking with mystudents and shaking their hands not worried about anything but maybe getting alittle bug, this week I am wearing a face mask and jumping when people sneeze. The first I heard about the “Swine Flu” last Monday from my husband who heardabout it from a friend, who no doubt heard about it from another friendthat somepeople were dying in Mexico City from something. I heard something, fromsomeone, who heard from someone else- hardly something to worry about. That is how most news is spread here, at least in small towns such as I live in. Ourhouse is the only one on our street and we have no telephone access, internetaccess and no cable. I often tell people when they ask about living there that it’slike living in a black hole of communication. An atomic bomb could have beendropped and I would hear about it through hear-say a week later.So after hearing about the Swine Flu- which is, as it translates into English, beingcalled here “Swine Influenza”- I wondered what it was about. But part of theproblem with living a communication black hole is that it is also aninformation blackhole. Everyone was talking about it, but no one knew anything. The talk was just talk and no one worried much about it. You thought to yourself,“Ooh… I hope it doesn’t make it all the way over here” and chatted about it withfriends, read about it in newspapers (who weren’t really saying much worthreading), but it wasn’t a reality. Part of the problem of living in a small town is that
 
you feel much more removed than you actually are. Mexico City feels like a wholedifferent world (which in reality it is) but it is only about the distance betweenSeattle and Portland, and no one would really consider that a great distance. The pictures started to come out of workers handing out face masks, like a doctorwould use, on the street where the street vendors had been selling cigarettes theweek before when I was there. But still, it was in Mexico City not here. Then there was news about it having been discovered in the United States and Istarted to think, hum… If it could make it all the way to the United States from here,what are the odds that it could travel the 150 miles to my home? At that point itbecame a bit harder to feel detached from the situation, but we still felt like itwasn’t really our concern. No one told us we that we should be careful. No onebothered to give anyone any information and so we all felt safe, tucked away in ourlittle mountainous surroundings.The reality though- It hit today though, when I arrived at school (I am an Englishteacher in a larger city near my home) and found that all the schools in the entirecountry, aside from my private school go figure, were closed until at least May 6
th
- That is nearly two full weeks. This morning, Instead of music the receptionist had on the news, like we did in theUnited States on that tragic day in September almost nine years ago, not talkingabout anything else. Our normally full lobby had two students in it, both wearing aface mask. There was no talk of exams or homework, only of whether we would bestaying open, since we are a private school, the news coming out of Mexico City andthe lack of access to face masks. There aren’t any face masks, in any stores, in the entire city that anyone can find. They can be found though. They can be found on what I would say is 8 or 9 peopleout of 10. I have never seen anything like it. People on the streets, what little thereare, are like a sea of doctors. Everyone looks serious, because you can’t see theirmouths, just a pair of solemn eyes quietly staring back at you. There aren’t that many pairs of eyes to see though, the majority of people here in Tulancingo, the city where I work, are at home. The downtown streets that arenormally filled with people midday are empty like midnight on Easter Sunday. Nostudents rushing to and from school or standing in a circle of uniforms. The everpresent swarm of venders selling tamales, juices, popsicles, tortas and pastes areclosed, been temporarily put out of business, not that it would matter, there are noshoppers out anyways. When I went in search of something to eat for lunch I foundthat only the burger king was still open. All the little are splattered in between storefronts were closed. Gates down, lights off.What are we doing while the world (at least our world) sits at home and waitsbesides panicking (and in my case answering 50 emails from worried familymembers in the states)? We are coming to the realization that it’s not just the virus
 
and the alarm that will affect us. After getting rather used to the fact that it couldbe you or, worse in my eyes, your children who are sitting in a under-funded ruralhospital, with under-trained doctors dying from a virus that even though thereseems to be medicine for people are still dying from- you start to think about thefact that there isn’t any work. When there isn’t any work, there isn’t any money.It’s bad enough that the average person in a rural area like mine makes less thantwo dollars an hour, but now we aren’t even able to make that.My husband and I both work in schools and it is going to be very difficult for us withno income for two weeks. It would be easier if it was just one of us, or if either of uswere paid on a salary, like a regular teacher and would continue to get paid. But of course, we are specialty teachers who, so we get paid only when we are there. Buteven if we worked somewherethat hadn’t closed for two weeks, one of us would stillhave to stay home. Daycares are closed. Schools are closed. What would we dowith our children?It’s not just people who work in schools and street vendors who are going to havethis same problem either. Think about this- Street vendors aren’t working. A streetvendor who sells Torta’s buys 10 bags of bread, 15 pounds of various meats, 3 large jars of mayo, 5pounds of cheese and so on. Now, that street vendor is not going tobe buying any of those things, why would they when they aren’t allowed to sellanything. Then you have a baker or store owner who normally has 3-4 streetvendors buying their supplies daily, who aren’t going to be buying anything for twoweeks. That baker isn’t able to spend money on things he normally would, like flourand butter. There is another person who is affected by lack of sales. Then thatperson, whom had planned on going to the dentist doesn’t, because now money isgoing to be tight. And so on. That circle will continue until everyone is affected inone way or another all the way across the country. As if we didn’t already haveenough problems already.Luckily, most people will probably only be affect financially and not physically. Or atleast that is how it feels at this point. According to news in the US (which seems tobe more informed than anything you can find here in Mexico) there are medicinesavailable to help fight it, especially if they are taken early. I can’t figure out why,people aren’t getting access to it.I think that part of the problem is that, like me, most people didn’t take it seriouslyuntil today. People got sick, figured it was a cold and didn’t do anything about ituntil they were really sick. I think it also probably has a lot to do with the fact thathealth care here in Mexico is not even close to being as good as it is in the UnitedStates. Doctors don’t have to go to school for nearly as long as they do in thestates and it’s easier to get a job as a doctor by buying a position versus by actuallyhaving qualifications and experience. The rural (or even not so rural) doctor’s offices don’t have modern technology andthe many of the hospitals don’t either. The doctor that I usually go to see here has a

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