Mexico flu strikes wrestlers to politicians

Thu Apr 30, 2009 8:52am EDT
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By Catherine Bremer

MEXICO CITY (Reuters) - Roberto Mendoza was a brawny masked wrestler, aged 29, who ate heartily, pumped iron at the gym and loved football. Then he caught a vicious strain of flu, checked into hospital and nine days later he was dead.

"It was very quick. He got worse and worse, they put tubes in him, then he died," said his red-eyed sister Belen, 32, who works in a small Mexico City eatery that is being scrubbed with bleach as she speaks.

In the grindingly poor city district of Iztapalapa, a little girl fell ill with a fever which sent shooting pain through her muscles and killed her a few days later.

On a swankier side of town, former Mexico City mayor and one-time presidential hopeful Manuel Camacho Solis went to a lunch and later that day was struck ill with a burning fever that left him fighting for his life in hospital. The fact doctors spotted fast that it looked like swine flu helped him survive.

Mexico's deadly swine flu epidemic, now on the brink of sparking a much-feared pandemic throughout the world, seems to be striking indiscriminately at young, old, rich and poor, and health officials can find no common link between the victims.

Health Minister Jose Angel Cordova said this week there was nothing to show whether victims had anything in common, such as traveling on the crowded Mexico City subway.

As more cases come to light, unease is growing over who might be carrying the virus. Car park attendants in masks and rubber gloves and rich housewives clutching antiseptic hand sanitizer eye each other with equal suspicion.

"The worst part was thinking it was ordinary flu ... then going for medical help and suddenly realizing the problem is in your lungs and you're going to be placed in intensive care," Camacho Solis, now recovered but with a severely reduced lung capacity, told Reuters.   Continued...

<p>Commuters wear protective masks in a subway in Mexico City April 29, 2009. A deadly swine flu outbreak could push Mexico deeper into recession, hurting an economy that shrank by as much as 8 percent in the first quarter, Mexico's central bank said on Wednesday. REUTERS/Daniel Aguilar</p>