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Chinese government quarantines Mexican travelers

Monday May 4, 2009 (foodconsumer.org) --A new controversy is arising as a result of the swine flu outbreak as China is quarantining groups of Mexican travelers, numerous news sources report. The travelers, only one of whom has been reported as sick, have complained about unfair treatment and sub par living conditions. China maintains that their actions are justified.

Many of the quarantined travelers shared an AeroMexico flight with the infected individual, who was twenty-five. The Mexican travelers are being held in various hotels throughout China, though the largest concentration is in Hong Kong's Metropark hotel. The quarantined travelers, among other complaints, cite poor medical treatment as one of many grievances.
The Chinese maintain that the Mexicans are not receiving any unfair treatment, citing their own quarantined travelers as justification. Yet, the travelers noted that they were met at the gate by Chinese camera crews. "We felt like we were in a zoo," one traveler, a 27 year old business student, told the Wall Street Journal.

A World Health Organization spokesman, Peter Cordingley, said that the WHO has no official policy on the type of treatment the Mexican travelers are receiving. Though, in a statement, he said that "in general [the WHO] supports any legal measures that reduce the risk of community transmission."

Mexican Ambassador Jorge Guajardo stated that "[Mexico is] objecting to the fact that they are holding Mexicans in isolation for fear that they might have the flu virus, even though they have no signs of having the flu virus." Guajardo was blocked by the Chinese government when trying to visit 10 travelers who were being quarantined in Bejing's Guo Men hotel.

The foreign minister of Mexico, Patricia Espinosa, criticized China, Peru, Argentina, Cuba and Ecuador for cutting flights to Mexico. She instructed Mexican citizens to avoid traveling to China. The Mexican travelers are being discriminated against by the Chinese government, Espinosa believes.

Mao Qunan, a spokesman for the Chinese Ministry of Health, said that the Chinese government was merely protecting against a potential spread of the virus to Hong Kong. He stated that "the confirmation of this case clearly raised the risks of A-H1N1 flu entering our country."

Mexico has 506 confirmed cases of swine flu, with 19 fatalities. Still, Reuters reports that Mexico believes the disease to be stabilizing. Michael Ryan, WHO director of Global Alert and Response,, said on May 2, 2009 that "[he] would still propose that a pandemic is imminent because we are seeing the disease spread."

(Written by Will Levine, and edited by Heather Kelley)