20090427 mexicans masks 18
Mexicans await outside their offices in Mexico City wearing masks as the country grapples with an outbreak of the swine flu. - 


Kai Ryssdal: It is important to set the terms of the debate here. Nobody has actually said there is a pandemic. Or even what the Centers for Disease Control calls a major outbreak. Still, swine flu has gotten everybody's attention. And nowhere more than in Mexico. Experts say a rapid global response could head off an epidemic. But the country that so far is at the center of it all worries any cure could wind up doing harm.

From the Americas Desk at WLRN in Miami, Marketplace's Dan Grech has more now on what's ailing the Mexican economy.

DAN GRECH: Mexico is already dealing with a violent drug war, a drop in remittances from workers overseas and a deepening recession. Now there's the swine flu. Mexicans are wearing surgical masks and watching the national pastime on TV.

JOAN NICHOLS: Mexico City, the soccer matches. There was nobody in the stands.

That's Joan Nichols with the Galveston National Biocontainment Laboratory. She says it's too early to say whether the flu will blow up worldwide or blow over. As long as that uncertainty exists, the European Union has told its citizens to avoid traveling to Mexico and the U.S.

NICHOLS: There's a major economic impact. But, I'd rather make decisions based on having too stringent a shutdown that we didn't need, rather than having been too lax, and it was necessary.

China and Russia have banned pork from much of North America, even though the virus is not spread by food. As for Mexico, its tourism industry was already struggling with bad press surrounding drug violence. George Grayson is a professor at the College of William & Mary in Virginia.

GEORGE GRAYSON: The outbreak of the influenza has certainly further delivered a body blow to people who are thinking about visiting Mexico or honeymooning there.

Visitors to Mexico City over the weekend dropped by an estimated 20 percent. And that could be just the beginning. The U.S. today issued a travel advisory, asking Americans to avoid non-essential visits to Mexico.

I'm Dan Grech for Marketplace.