Flu Outbreak: US Embassy Mexico Suspends Non-Essential Services

One of our largest embassies in the world, US Embassy Mexico, will suspend non-essential consular services the week of April 27. In its Warden Update dated April 25, the embassy issued the following notice:

In accordance with measures announced by the City of Mexico to limit the congregation of large crowds, the U.S. Embassy in Mexico City will suspend all non-essential consular services from Monday, April 27, 2009 through Thursday, April 30, 2009. On Friday May 1st the Embassy is closed for a local holiday.

From Monday, April 27 to Thursday, April 30th, consular services for U.S. citizens will be limited to citizenship applications (passports and consular reports of birth abroad, or CRBA) and emergency assistance only. Notarial and other routine services will not be available; anyone with passport or CRBA appointments is encouraged but not required to reschedule to a later date. Additionally, the Federal Benefits Unit is requesting all persons to postpone interviews on Social Security claims.

The Visa Unit also suspends normal operations during this week. Visa applications scheduled for this week will be rescheduled according to the announcement. Read the whole thing here.

The Warden Update did state that “these are precautionary measures only, taken to best assure the well-being of our clients and staff,” and that “the United States has imposed no additional constraints or limitations on travel between the United States and Mexico.”

The US Embassy Mexico mission is one of the largest in the world with nine consular posts and 14 consular agencies around Mexico. It looks like the suspension of consular services is limited only to the US embassy at this time, and does not include the constituent posts around the country.

Meanwhile the CDC Health Advisory (April 25, 2009, 3:00 EST (03:00 PM EDT) has the following update:

CDC has also been working closely with public health officials in Mexico, Canada and the World Health Organization (WHO). Mexican public health authorities have reported increased levels of respiratory disease, including reports of severe pneumonia cases and deaths, in recent weeks. CDC is assisting public health authorities in Mexico by testing specimens and providing epidemiological support. As of 11:00 AM (EDT) April 25, 2009, 7 specimens from Mexico at CDC have tested positive for the same strain of swine influenza A (H1N1) as identified in U.S. cases. However, no clear data are available to assess the link between the increased disease reports in Mexico and the confirmation of swine influenza in a small number of specimens. WHO is monitoring international cases. Further information on international cases may be found at [the WHO website].

In the same advisory, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) says that “The viruses contain a unique combination of gene segments that have not been reported previously among swine or human influenza viruses in the U.S. or elsewhere. At this time, CDC recommends the use of oseltamivir or zanamivir for the treatment of infection with swine influenza viruses. The H1N1 viruses are resistant to amantadine and rimantadine but not to oseltamivir or zanamivir. It is not anticipated that the seasonal influenza vaccine will provide protection against the swine flu H1N1 viruses.”

More here on the use of oseltamivir or zanamivir for the treatment of infection, including how it works and its possible side effects, especially on children.

CDC has not recommended that people avoid travel to affected areas at this time. CDC has posted recommendations at the CDC Travelers’ Health page to help travelers reduce risk of infection and stay healthy. Note that the current World Health Organization phase of pandemic alert is at 3, the initial stage which correlates with preparedness, including capacity development and response planning activities.

Related Post:
Peakniks and Pandemic: Implications for the Foreign Service

Related Items

US Embassy Public Announcement Page

CDC on Swine Flu (updated daily)

CDC Traveler’s Health

CDC Outbreak Notice

WHO Disease Outbreak News

CDC Swine Flu Update RSS Feed

WHO Outbreak News RSS Feed

USG Pandemic Flu Website

Updated: 4/27

C-SPAN: White House Press Briefing-Government Response to Swine Flu, April 26 (00.41 min)