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World News

May 7, 2009

Mexican swine flu survivors face neighbors' fears

MEXICO CITY (AP) — Moises Bonilla spent five days struggling to breathe in a hospital ward he shared with others suspected of having swine flu. He watched the woman in the bed next to him die.

Bonilla lived to tell his story — a bold choice for swine flu survivors in Mexico, where neighbors have shunned the sick out of fear of contagion, even as the government protests foreign quarantines of its citizens. Most of the country's more than 1,000 confirmed survivors have remained anonymous.

"We are discriminating against each other in Mexico. Imagine how it must be in other countries," said Bonilla, an unemployed maintenance worker. He wore a white surgical mask inside the small two-bedroom apartment where he lives with his wife, two adult daughters and two grandchildren.

Eight days after leaving the hospital, he was all but recovered Wednesday but had yet to venture out except for checkups at his local public clinic.

He decided to talk about his story because some Mexicans were dismissing the epidemic as a government hoax. And after he talked with journalists, some neighbors became alarmed and a government physician had to come to assure them he was no longer contagious.

Even healthy Mexicans have been the target of fear: Some Acapulco residents hurled stones last week at cars with Mexico City license plates, angry that anyone from the epicenter of the outbreak had ventured to their town.

Julian Sosa, a 30-year-old cardiology student, was also startled by others' reactions. He agreed to talk about his experiences with The Associated Press, which learned about him from a physician who didn't treat Sosa but is familiar with his case.

Sosa said he spent five days at home taking Tamiflu for swine flu symptoms. He was miserable — he could barely open his eyes, and he felt like someone was beating him up. And he was oblivious to what was going on in the rest of Mexico City.

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