Health & Science

Tri-Citians still seem to be going to Mexico

Waiting to board a plane at the Tri-Cities Airport, Rosa Garca of Pasco and her cousin Ycidra Madrigal sorted through their purses to make sure they had everything for their trip.

Passport? Check. Hand sanitizer? Check. Face masks?

"We have those too," Madrigal said in Spanish.

The women are traveling to Zamora, Michoacn, a state in southern Mexico. Though there haven't been any reported cases of swine influenza in Michoacn, they don't want to take any risks.

"We even packed rubber gloves," said Garca with a laugh.

As the global flu frenzy grows, Tri-Citians don't seem to be concerned about changing their travel plans to Mexico.

"People are still traveling," said Maricruz Ramirez, a travel agent at Sol Azteca travel agency in downtown Pasco.

The agency, which specializes in Latin-American travel arrangements, hasn't had anyone change plans just yet.

"(Travelers) are only calling to ask if their flights have been canceled," Ramirez said.

The airlines are leaving it up to travelers to make their decisions but aren't canceling any flights yet, she said.

Preparing for the epidemic on the home front may not be as big of a deal as some believe.

"Cover your cough, wash your hands and stay home if you feel ill," said Dr. Larry Jecha, health officer for the Benton-Franklin Health District. "It should be common sense."

For now, he says there are no other preventive measures or vaccines for swine flu, but no one should be alarmed.

"It hasn't seemed to be any worse than the normal viruses we see during flu season," Jecha said. "Even (the normal types of flu) can cause up to 30,000 deaths a year."

If flulike symptoms appear, such as fever, cough, body aches, chills and fatigue, Jecha recommends calling health providers before storming hospital emergency rooms to avoid spreading the illness and creating a "bottleneck effect in the hospitals."

"We're not recommending people to travel to Mexico unless it's essential," he said.

Garca and Madrigal are headed to Zamora for Madrigal's brother's funeral and feel left with no choice but to make the trip south. Though prepared, their health is the least of their worries.

Madrigal's concerned about how people will receive them at the airport. Mexico's officials have been discouraging the peck-on-the-cheek and hug greeting, which will be difficult, given the circumstances of the visit.

"You can't reject (hugs and kisses)," she said. "But we're going prepared."

For more information on swine flu, visit the Tri-City Herald's home page or the Benton-Franklin Health District's website at www.bfhd.wa.gov.

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