Local authorities are trying to tamp down fear in other areas, as well. Clinics and hospitals are crammed with sniffling patients, but officials in Mexico City say that only about 2 percent are being kept for observation because they show swine-flu symptoms. According to Mexico's minister of health, José Ángel Córdova, around 2,000 cases of pneumonia have been detected nationwide. About half of the patients have been discharged, 700 remain hospitalized and 150 have died—although Córdova is still waiting to confirm whether swine flu caused all of the deaths.
These statistics, however, may not be reliable. Some Mexican doctors say that some swine-flu deaths have not been recorded as such because patients were not tested for the virus; others suggest that Mexican health authorities may be trying to conceal the extent of the crisis. In Mexico City's state-owned Darío Fernández Hospital, for example, four patients were admitted to the intensive-care unit in the last week suffering from pneumonia. All showed symptoms of swine flu, and two died last Friday. Yet their death certificates made no mention of the virus because the victims were not tested for it.
Another physician, who spoke with NEWSWEEK en Español but asked not to be identified, claimed that in the Gea González Hospital—the biggest facility run by the Ministry of Health in Mexico City—doctors have been explicitly told not to record pneumonia as a cause of death. "You must say that they died of cardiac arrest or anything else," said the physician about the instruction given to them. (The Ministry of Health did not comment on these allegations ahead of NEWSWEEK en Español's deadline this week.)