V i v i a n  S o n g
Freelance writer
Freelance writer
Doctor treating H1N1 in Mexico

Toronto Sun, Sun Media papers, April, 2009

A Canadian doctor living at the heart of the influenza outbreak in Mexico has been working 14-hour days treating nervous patients, two of whom tested positive for the H1N1 virus.

For the past two weeks, Dr. Michael Haney, 34, of Montreal has been working alongside his doctor-wife at a private clinic in Mexico City from 7 a. m. to 9 p. m., mostly reassuring frightened parents with sniffling kids they'll be fine, he said.

"We're seeing a lot of children come into the office but it's just a little cold," Haney told Sun Media in a phone interview from Mexico City. "People are scared more than anything else."

Among the hundreds of patients he's seen, Haney has treated two young males for the H1N1 virus: One a 16-year-old who exhibited mild symptoms, and the other a 24-year-old man who was a more serious case with a runny nose, heavy chest pains and trouble breathing.

"But we caught them in time and they're recovering now," he said.

Haney has his own theory on why the flu is striking young, healthy adults: The classic sense of adolescent invincibility.

"These young men tend to rebel and don't wear face masks, you see it all the time by the metro over here," he said. "They just continue about their lives, hanging out with friends. It's more rebellious neglect, as if nothing can touch them."

Likewise, Haney and his colleagues are seeing more families from the outskirts of the city, he said, who had previously been treating themselves with their "grandmother's medicine" or homemade plant and herbal remedies.

Meanwhile, people are running around the city, scrambling to find masks and hand sanitizers. At the clinic, he's safeguarded the only two masks that are left -- one for himself and one for his wife.

"We've called all our suppliers and they're completely sold out."

A wild rumour circulating in the city is also prompting people to snatch up eye goggles at hardware stores in the misguided belief that eye gear will protect them, he said.

“People are calm but they're just trying to get their hands on whatever they can... But if it makes people feel better, it will help them get through their day."

While the rest of the world seems to be whipped up in a frenzy, Haney said the panic in Mexico City has started to subside.

"We've started to quiet down. You can see that people are more calm and relaxed."

For example, despite the flu outbreak, the nearest resort town and long weekend destination for Mexico City locals, Acapulco, is booked solid, he said.

Website Builder