Swine Flu in Argentina

It seems that the whole world is buzzing with the phrase, “Swine Flu,” and for good reason. A rather potent flu virus that emerged out of Mexico seems to be reaching to every corner of the world. Here in Argentina the first cases arrived in Buenos Aires and since then they have been unstoppable. In my town of Puerto Madryn it arrived through a doctor who had returned from a journey to Mexico.

Puerto Madryn city

The main street of Puerto Madryn.

Each town and city has a similar story. One person came back and did not know they had it, and before it could be contained, more people had contracted it. Until it was too prolific to be controlled. As this flu continues to sweep through most (if not all) the towns in Argentina, some cities are realising that they need to take drastic measures to try and contain it.

Not too long ago I was in Punta Alta, a city to the north of us, and about eight hours south of the capital of Buenos Aires. Punta Alta is a significant seaport and naval base, resulting in the ebb and flow of many sailors and people. We arrived just as the city was starting to realise that the outbreak of swine flu was becoming uncontrollable. Things were starting to look frightful, with a neighbouring township of 8000 people suffering from more than 1000 residents with the swine flu. Punta Alta was more or less the same, with many people sick. There were many who were unable to attend the workshops that we were offering during the week we were there.

Main street of Punta Alta

The mainly empty main street of Punta Alta

It was somewhere around the middle of the week that the city council took drastic action. Some may argue that it was already too late, but then sometimes it is better late than never. They passed a law decreeing that all social activities must stop. Any social gathering was now unlawful, and it would be this way for the next three weeks. Soccer practice and games, sports teams, schools, universities, churches, and even brothels and night-clubs were all shut down. People were warned to stay in their homes and to not go outside. Three weeks of isolation, forced by law in many instances, was intended to reduce and perhaps even control the outbreak of swine flu.

By the time we left on the Sunday morning, the town had become very quiet. It was not without people but the amount of people present had noticeably reduced. Punta Alta was not the only town taking such drastic measures either. Puerto Madryn, my own town, had closed their schools one week before the normal holidays, and had shut down most social areas including the bingo hall, casinos, and churches. Buenos Aires also had declared a state of emergency and reduced all social events that were occurring in the city for two or so weeks.

The Church closed by law

The church in Punta Alta, closed by law

In light of all of the closures, my journey to Buenos Aires has been delayed for a couple of weeks until the city returns to some semblance of activity later this month. Although the media has hyped the swine flu in every way possible, the reality here in Puerto Madryn is that few people are infected. I have never personally known any person that was infected with this flu, although I heard that there were two YWAMers in Buenos Aires who have now recovered from it.

Maybe your story is different. There are people dying from the swine flu, that is certain. The big question that remains however, is how many people die from the standard flu each year. Are the fatalities from swine flu greater or more significant than the normal flu? There are many questions that have remained unanswered during this media frenzy, and perhaps only time will reveal the full picture.

For now, as we all know, it is wise to take precautions, but foolish to live in fear.