Swine flu concern on the border

April 30, 2009 5:56:19 PM PDT
There were big developments Tuesday on the swine flu outbreak. [SWINE FLU: Symptoms, questions and answers and more]
[INTERACTIVE MAP: Map and timeline of swine flu cases]

More people in the United States are coming down with the disease and new cases are being reported around the world. But we still have no reported cases in our area.

There are now 69 confirmed cases in the U.S. One case was reported Tuesday in Indiana. Other states include Texas, New York, California, Kansas and Ohio. There are reports that hundreds of people are sick in New York.

President Obama is asking congress for $1.5 billion to fight the swine flu outbreak. The World Health Organization is confirming seven deaths in Mexico, but say more than 1,600 other cases are suspected, with more than 150 deaths possibly related.

There might not be any cases of swine flu in Laredo, but there are many, many patients; so many that Dr. Armando Hinojosa tells us his health clinic is running out of swine flu test kits.

"We were not prepared for the number of patients we had last night with the concerns," he said.

On any other night, 25 patients would walk through the clinic doors. Monday night, there were 60, some with swine flu signs that could not be ignored.

"We know what we need to look for," said Dr. Hinojosa. "Based on what I've seen in the last 24 hours here in this particular clinic, we've had two to three suspect cases."

It will take another 24 hours to get test results confirmed. In the meantime, those patients got Tamiflu. At this city's busy border crossings, worry spreads.

"The mask is for protection from the influenza," said Eleazar Ixba, who we found crossing into Mexico.

The volume of traffic across these borders isn't up or down because of swine flu, we're told. About one in ten people are wearing a mask. Customs and Border Protection officers are not. They tell us they are looking for sick people who would undergo additional questioning.

In two and a half days of looking, officers haven't identified anyone. But finding sick people before they cross into the states may not be the most important defense against the virus, since it's already here.

"Closing the border is not the answer," said Dr. Hinojosa. "I think that it takes nations working together to identify pandemics before they happen."

If anyone is identified at the border crossings, they wouldn't be turned away just for being sick. They would be subject to additional questioning and then turned over to health officials who would counsel them on how to keep from getting other people sick.

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