Masked in Mexico City
"The masks are becoming something a business in Mexico"
These masks are not very efficient. The disease is caught mainly through physical contact. For example, if you touch an object which is carrying the virus, you then transmit it by touching your eyes or mouth. The masks can therefore stop you from touching your face, and stop those who have the virus from contaminating others through touch, but that's all. Personally I don't wear a mask, but I wash my hands whenever I get the chance.
The government is distributing masks. When I drove into the city by car for example, they gave me one as I came into the centre. The authorities are saying ‘it can't do any harm'. I'd say that about 50 per cent of people are wearing a mask, and on public transport, almost everyone.
The masks are becoming something of a business in Mexico City. People buy up the entire stock from a pharmacy at two pesos a piece [11 euro centimes] and then sell them on at ten times the price."
"Viruses can pass through standard surgical masks"
Maggie Koerth-Baker is a journalist specialised in science. She's tweeting on the evolution of the virus.
Surgical masks can aid prevention, but only to a point. Viruses can pass through standard surgical masks. You're better off using a specialty mask with the designation N-95 or N-99. Those are available online or at pharmacies. But even that's not perfect. The virus can live for up to two hours outside the human body and it's likely to be on any surface an infected person might touch after sneezing, or sneeze on directly. Desks, doorknobs, computers...lots of things. Hand-washing and keeping your hands away from your eyes and face (and, if you have the flu, staying away from everybody else) are still the best ways to prevent transmission.
About antiviral medications like tamiflu - those drugs could, theoretically, work as a preventative measure. But, according to Christine Layton, a public health policy analyst with the North Carolina-based non-profit research institute RTI International, that would be a REALLY bad idea. She says:
‘Influenza (like other viruses) can become resistant to antiviral medication. When this occurs, antiviral medications are no longer effective. The best way to prevent the development of resistant viruses (or bacteria) is to use antiviral (or antibiotic) medications only when infected with a virus which will respond to the medication.'
Another great way to keep from getting swine flu: don't go to Mexico. The State Department has said that all non-essential travel to the area should be avoided. Do what they say, here. Even if it ends up costing you some money on airline tickets, the risk of picking something up - and, perhaps worse, spreading it to family, friends, and everyone you share an airplane with - just isn't worth it. You don't want to be responsible for that."