Beyond the World news headlines
Mexicans take flu outbreak with dose of skepticism
There’s a real fear of catching the killer virus, which has already claimed up to 159 lives, largely because many Mexicans are skeptical about getting the right treatment from state hospitals.
Nothing sums that up better than the millions of surgical face masks being worn by everyone from businessmen to street kids washing car windshields in the capital’s never-ending sprawl.
It’s a bizarre sight, and the rebellious or foolhardy who shun the masks draw suspicious glances.
But even the mask-wearers tell you the whole thing could well be some big nothing cooked up by the media and reminiscent of the mythical beast Chupacabra — Mexico’s bloodsucking equivalent of the Loch Ness monster.
With a shrug and a smile, a lot of Mexicans tell you from behind a strip of grubby fabric that they’ve heard the masks don’t even work.
Taxi drivers, who often show a terrifying disregard for conventional rules of road safety, seem to be taking the mask regime particularly seriously.
“Please miss, can you wind down your window? I need all four windows open to have the air circulating,” one driver asked me, his pristine white face mask teamed with some rubber surgeon’s gloves.
As we weaved between trucks at dizzying speed, I noticed his safety belt dangling idle by his side.
(A woman walks with a sign around her neck that reads “immune” in Mexico City’s main square, April 27, 2009. REUTERS/Daniel Aguilar)