Mexico Clinics Overwhelmed By Suspected Flu Cases Medical facilities are struggling to keep up with the number of patients showing up with flu symptoms. And worried patients and their families are wondering if enough is being done to treat the ill and stem the epidemic.
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Mexico Clinics Overwhelmed By Suspected Flu Cases

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Mexico Clinics Overwhelmed By Suspected Flu Cases

Mexico Clinics Overwhelmed By Suspected Flu Cases

Mexico Clinics Overwhelmed By Suspected Flu Cases

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  • <iframe src="https://www.npr.org/player/embed/103582552/103584623" width="100%" height="290" frameborder="0" scrolling="no" title="NPR embedded audio player">
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Nurses at the Clinica Dr. Guillermo Soberon, a low-income clinic in Mexico City, give a lesson in preventing swine flu to patients waiting to see doctors. Carrie Kahn/NPR hide caption

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Carrie Kahn/NPR

Nurses at the Clinica Dr. Guillermo Soberon, a low-income clinic in Mexico City, give a lesson in preventing swine flu to patients waiting to see doctors.

Carrie Kahn/NPR

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Concern over the spread of swine flu prompted Mexico City Mayor Marcelo Ebrad on Tuesday to urge residents with symptoms to get to a hospital or clinic as quickly as possible. He insisted that the authorities are giving the best medical attention possible.

But medical facilities are struggling to keep up with the number of residents showing up with flu symptoms. And worried patients and their family members are wondering if enough is being done to treat the ill and stem the epidemic.

At Hospital La Raza in the northern reaches of the city, Josue Mora and his wife Rosalva Garza are concerned that their 15-year-old daughter is not getting proper treatment. They brought her in Sunday night with flu-like symptoms.

"She had a bad headache, a high fever and aches. They admitted her, but she didn't get drugs for 24 hours. Now they tell us she has pneumonia," Mora says.

He orders tamales from a small food stand set up on the street in front of the hospital. Tuesday morning was the first time the couple had been able to get something to eat since Monday. They are afraid to leave their daughter's side and miss an update.

Mora says it is frustrating trying to get information about their daughter's condition. One doctor tells them she can go home and be treated there, while another says no. Mora says no one has given them any anti-viral drugs to help protect them and their other children at home.

Stemming the spread of the disease has been the top priority of the government since the flu crisis erupted late last week.

Across the country, schools have been closed, and on Tuesday, authorities in Mexico City closed more public places, including gyms, sports clubs and pool halls. Restaurants were ordered to no longer serve customers inside — all food orders must be take-out.

Supplies of anti-viral drugs have dwindled as demand has soared, so pharmacies no longer offer them. Government officials say they have enough supplies to treat the sick, and the drugs will be carefully controlled.

At a low-cost clinic run by the city, 24-year-old Jessica Colin is in her final month of pregnancy and has been waiting two hours to see a doctor. She says she started feeling sick on Monday and has a high fever.

A couple dozen patients wait to be seen at the clinic, where a doctor's visit costs 6 pesos, about 50 cents.

Dr. Gilberto Lopez Aurobiz says prescriptions at the clinic are given only to the most severe cases.

He says about four or five very sick cases show up at the small clinic every day. But, he adds, he doesn't prescribe anti-viral drugs to family members or others who have come in direct contact with the sick.

As the patients wait, three nurses give an impromptu lesson on preventing swine flu.

Two nurses hold up a large poster with crude hand-drawn cartoon characters. Nurse Juana Mendez Antonio points to the character sneezing and stresses prevention.

Meanwhile, Colin looks miserable with each passing minute. She sits on a hard plastic chair and rests her head on her boyfriend's shoulder.