In 2009, a mutation of the influenza virus placed Mexico at the center of world attention: was the first country to report cases of the AH1N1 flu. The doctor José Ángel Córdova Villalobos, a former health secretary during the Felipe Calderón Hinojosa government, led the country during the pandemic that began in 2009 and ended in 2010.
President Andrés Manuel López Obrador presented on Tuesday the measures that his government will adopt to face the coronavirus pandemic in what he said is “a new phase.” The Secretary of the Navy and the Secretary of Defense, with the Marine Plan and with the plan DN III, will support the Ministry of Health when indicated. Plan DN III is an operational concept in its first phase of three, which are: preventive, relief and recovery. This plan contemplates using military hospitals, continue with the purchase and distribution of specialized drug equipment, and the distribution of medical supplies.
In interview with Infobae MexicoCórdova Villalobos affirmed that the army and the navy have extensive experience in natural disasters, which “have always done and have done very well.” They have also collaborated in health emergencies. Among his duties during the epidemic of 11 years ago, most was protection of citizenship and the contribution of some elements for prevention, such as the distribution of antibacterial gel and face masks.
The former Secretary of Health and Public Education trusts that military and medical doctors who trained in the Navy, and who have the same training and qualifications as civilian doctors, can attend or take responsibility for hospitals that they already have cases or anyone that is presenting of coronavirus in Mexico. “I have no doubt that they have capable people, they have their infrastructure, medicines, resources. I have no doubt you can face this“, said.
With respect to Plan DN III He mentions that it was “very general”. He claims that the hospitals and the resources required in terms of personnel and financing which, according to Córdova Villalobos, really is what is needed to be able to supplement the right equipment and medications. Emphasized the importance of the human resources required for the operation of hospitals, which some were not properly from the navy but will be managed by it.
According to the official, there are military doctors and doctors in the navy who have training in hospital administration, and that the government took into account to calculate the number of patients that they plan to attend to be able to give an adequate response.
“I think there has been a situation where further confirmatory testing has been lacking. The tests have not been widely applied and this raises doubt that the growth of the curve that Mexico showed was precisely biased because the tests had not been done on the people who were suspected, ”he said.
While the number of suspects in the country is high, Córdova Villalobos says it was, is, and remains important to South Korea’s strategy of making the evidence in suspected cases to be certain of their status. “No longer have a group of suspects: confirmed or discarded“Said the former secretary.
To confirmed patients it is necessary follow them up that you can allow them and their contacts have them controlled. In addition to the actions of social distancing and try to avoid that the number of cases multiplies exponentially. “That is the challenge because there will be a contagion with practically 70% of the population, as undersecretary López Gatell already said. Not in these first weeks but during the weeks of phase two and phase three, “he said.
If it is possible that the growth curve flattens, the demand for services for seriously ill patients, which represent around 5% to 6%, will not exceed the response capacity of hospitals. If it is very fast and if it is exponential, the official assures that there will be problems in the hospitals.
Córdova Villalobos assures that the importance of flattening the growth curve is so that there is no lack of space, equipment, and doctors. If it grows rapidly, hospitals fill up and collapse. The problem would be that there would be no place to put patients because there is not enough equipment and getting it quickly now is not easy due to world demand, especially because of pulmonary assist ventilators, key machines in the treatment of respiratory diseases.
“If you can contain that growth, let it go slower, we can get ahead without many problems ”, he assured.
The doctor reports that the greatest risk would come from exponential growth of cases because there would not be a sufficient number of fans at any given time. The enormous challenge, for him, is the difficulty of obtaining them quickly due to the amount of demand by affected and epidemic countries. “It is easier to get some medicines than to be able to get equipment when there are countries as affected as Italy, France, Spain, the United Kingdom, and the United States,” he confirmed.
“There I would have my Doubts, that seeing that the curve does not flatten and continues to grow, desperately trying to buy them will have a positive result. That’s the risk“
The former secretary also hopes that the country goes the same way and that, now that the phases and plans have been decreed by President López Obrador, all the population follow the recommendations given by the Undersecretariat for Prevention and Health Promotion through Undersecretary Hugo López Gatell, where an important part is social distancing.
“I hope that some attitudes that were inconsistent are corrected with what was being announced by technicians and scientists. The president has said that he will respect and that only the scientists or technicians were going to be giving information. That is what we expect because that is what we all need. It is very difficult and confuses people if a person says ‘you have to distance yourself’, ‘no hugs, no kisses’, and other people, who have a lot influence on citizenship, they continue to do so“, he claimed.
The pandemic of a decade ago
Regarding differences Between the COVID-19 pandemic and the AH1N1 influenza pandemic, the two most important are that the AH1N1 was addressed at the time when it was already in phase two. “The cases were already replicating and it grew rapidly. It was different from this coronavirus, which was addressed from phase one of viral import and where it gives you more time to prepare and act“He assured.
In the AH1N1 pandemic 11 years ago the main measure was immediate action from the point of view of social distancing: the closure of schools (selectively because at first the outbreak was only in the Valley of Mexico) and the closure of some businesses and entertainment areas such as cinemas and theaters.
“It was not the total stoppage: the total stoppage was a few days because thanks to the second big difference, which was that we had a medication that did work because it had been acquired from the previous administration, ”said Córdova Villalobos. He also recalled the “great tranquility” because patients began to heal when they took the medication within the first days of symptoms, which inactivated and destroyed the virus and made carriers non-contagious.
“On the one hand we were avoiding transmission through distancing and, on the other hand, those who were already infected, if already treated, were no longer contagious. This allowed us, practically in three weeks, control the outbreak and the growth of the number of cases“He reported.
The former secretary also assured that the COVID-19 pandemic in Mexico and in the world will be progressive. “I don’t think a return to normality will start within two to three months, according to the way in which everything is presented ”.