A doctor's day in Mexico City

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LISA MULLINS: I'm Lisa Mullins and this is The World. Switzerland, Peru, and the Netherlands have joined the growing list of countries reporting cases of swine flu, or, rather, Influenza A H1N1. The World Health Organization today began using that formal name for the virus after pork producers and others complained that the term "swine flu" is misleading. Experts say you cannot catch the virus from eating pork. And although the infection may have originated in pigs, it is now effectively a human virus. Whatever you call the virus, it appears it may have infected a member of the Obama Administration. Today, White House spokesman Robert Gibbs said the man is a staffer for Energy Secretary Stephen Chu. The staffer visited Mexico in advance of the President's trip there earlier this month. He fell ill two weeks ago, and then three members of the man's family became sick. All are suspected to have suffered from the H1N1 virus. And Gibbs said all of them have recovered. The Mexican government, meanwhile, is taking new steps to keep the virus from spreading. President Felipe Calderon has ordered nonessential businesses and government offices to close tomorrow and to stay closed for five days. This is in addition to the previous closing of schools, restaurants, and movie theatres. Still, one type of business remains open and in demand. The World's Lorne Matalon spent time with a doctor at a Mexico City hospital.

LORNE MATALON: These are hectic days at Mexico City's Children's Hospital. Endless lines of parents, many visibly fearful, bring their sick children for triage. Health professionals are on the lookout for swine flu.

LUIS ROMANO: This is the room where the samples are being taken.

MATALON: Among the doctors is a cherubic 35-year-old named Luis Romano. He's an infectious disease specialist.

ROMANO: If it's an H1N1, then it can be further processed to see if it's Swine Flu or if it's seasonal flu.

MATALON: In the last week, Romano has sent dozens of swab cultures and blood samples to labs in Mexico, the US, and Canada. Romano enters an examination room and asks a 12-year-old girl, "How are you feeling?" The patient lists her symptoms: sore throat, itchy eyes, body aches, constant fatigue, no appetite; and, she says, her brother has been hospitalized with Influenza Type A. Type A can describe both human and animal strains, and both manifest similar symptoms. Her brother's strain has not yet been analyzed, but he's very ill. Romano checks the patient. He says he'll send throat cultures for analysis.

ROMANO: Just to make sure that she doesn't have any kind of flu virus especially because of her prior contact with an infected patient, that brother.

MATALON: Romano says 15 patients treated at this hospital are exhibiting symptoms that might prove to be Swine Flu. Romano protects himself by doing what he advises his patients to do. He washes his hands frequently and wears a surgical mask. The mask, he says, can keep you from touching your hands to your eyes or mouth, which is one way the virus can enter the body. Romano says he's tired from the long hours. The days are blurring into one another. But from a professional point of view, he finds the outbreak fascinating.

ROMANO: The world is learning from us, actually, so it's a big opportunity for us, also, to be part of this global community and to try to control this outbreak.
MATALON: He says there are still many unanswered questions. Among them, why have so many died in Mexico while the disease appears far less deadly elsewhere? The mysteries surrounding this virus trouble him.

ROMANO: We have in the last 100 years done a lot of technical progress and advances. But then out of nowhere comes a new virus and in the 21st century, it's causing all this crisis.

MATALON: But he believes the crisis will soon be under control. At least, he feels more confident than he did a week ago. For The World I'm Lorne Matalon in Mexico City.