Residents with ties to Mexico react to deadly swine flu outbreak

By Carly O'Keefe - bio | email

CARBONDALE, IL (KFVS) - David Leija is a Mexican-American student at Southern Illinois University Carbondale.  He's preparing for finals now, but that's not all that's on his mind. His thoughts are more focused on news that a deadly swine flu outbreak is sweeping areas south of the border and heading north.
"I was working right when all the commotion started about it.  I was reading through the paper and I saw they were talking about Mexico, and the flu and it said they closed down all the schools in San Luis Potosi, which is where I'm from. I was surprised, you never hear about San Luis on the news," said Leija.
Leija calls the Chicago area home now, but has many loved ones still living in one of the swine flu quarantine zones.
"Thanks to the miracle of Facebook, I was able to contact a few of my cousins...they're okay, they're bored, but they're okay," Leija said.
Pictures of his relatives on Facebook show what they are dealing with.  They're wearing hospital masks and write comments like "This influenza thing is scary." Leija knows the feeling, although he's a world away.
"I am worried about it, because it hits home," Leija said.
Letty Vicente coordinates health programs for the Jackson-Union County Migrant Head Start.  Vicente also has family in Mexico, but worries more about how she can prevent an outbreak in the Heartland.
"There's always a possibility, the fact that some of the families come from Texas, and some of the families did come from Mexico, the possibility and risk will always be there and we just have to hope that we don't get an exposure here. We're now starting to register families and teach them what they need to learn," Vicente said.
She's teaching lessons like what to watch for in terms of symptoms and how to minimize exposure through hygiene.
"I'm hearing the fever more than anything, the chills, and nauseas. We're being taught those are the main symptoms of this flu, so we're going to be focusing on telling the families what to look for; whereas before, if they said the fever was no big deal, it'll be a big deal this time. Just to be on the safe side," Vicente said.
The Migrant Head Start will begin accepting students May 26.  According to Vicente, the families moving into the Migrant Camp in Cobden in the coming weeks will first go through extra screenings to help limit the possibility of a swine flu outbreak in southern Illinois.

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