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Playa del Carmen, Is it Safe?? Part II…the Swine Flu

Posted by Tony & Cheri on April 28, 2009

We thought it time we said something about the swine flu in Mexico. First let’s deal with the current situation in Playa del Carmen as we know it.

As of this morning there have been no reported cases of swine flu in Playa del Carmen or in the larger area of Quintana Roo, the state in which Playa del Carmen, Cancun and Tulum reside. In fact, to our knowledge, there have been no reported cases of swine flu in the entire Yucatan peninsula, comprising the eastern portion of the country of Mexico. This somewhat contradicts the statement of a so-called medical expert on MSNBC TV last night who proclaimed with wild eyes that the virus had “spread through the entire country of Mexico.”

Playa del Carmen itself is calm, except for the kids who seem to be everywhere today. Mexico in its wisdom has closed all of the schools nationwide until next Wednesday. As a result, the kids have a holiday and are making the best use of it. Kinda like snow days we remember from our own childhood. 🙂

There are no other closings or restrictions to our knowledge. Stores and restaurants, clubs and tours, business offices and government buildings are all open for business. We haven’t seen anyone wearing a mask. There is no sense of hysteria or even anxiety about this. The main concern is how the economy will react to the sudden drop in tourism, since so many people earn their living from that industry.

We were disappointed to see the travel advisory put out by the Centers for Disease Control suggesting that non-essential travel to Mexico be curtailed. We appreciate the CDC and Homeland Security are doing their jobs, and we applaud them for it. However, the travel restriction seems to have more political foundation than health concern. There is an advisory against traveling anywhere in Mexico, not just the areas which have reported cases of swine flu, which is primarily Mexico City. While the US government is advising individuals not to travel to Mexico, there are no advisories against travel witihin the US, despite the fact that there are a number of swine flu cases there over a broader geographical area. And of course, when India, China and the European Union advises its citizens not to travel to the US, our government responds” ‘that’s not necessary.’ As we say, there is a lot of political emphasis here as the different countries weigh in on this issue.

Above the fray of nationalized attitudes, the World Health Organization has taken a different tact. The World Health Organization says that restriction on travel will have absolutely no affect whatsoever in controlling or eliminating this disease. According to the most recent WHO travel updates on swine flu, “WHO does not recommend to restrict international travel. As usual, it is considered prudent for people who are ill to delay international travel and for people developing symptoms following international travel to seek medical attention.”

Concern in this situation is legitimate and a natural response, but hysteria is not, and hysteria seems to be building, primarily through an overabundance of sensationalized news coverage. There is a difference between reporting the facts and creating a sense of overwhelming danger and impending doom. The other night FOX News led its evening broadcast with a split screen showing Mexico City on one side and the disaster movie Outbreak on the other!

But FOX is not alone in its overhype of this situation as a medical disaster. And that’s not just our opinion. “Of course we’re doing too much to scare people,” said Mark Feldstein, a former correspondent for NBC, ABC and CNN who teaches journalism at George Washington University. “Cable news has 24 hours to fill, and there isn’t 24 hours of exciting news going on. If you scare people, they’ll tune in more.” This quote comes from an excellent article by Howard Kurtz in today’s Washington Post. You can find it here.

Another good article can be found on from David Whelan of Mr. Whelan makes the point: “Hysteria and exotic-sounding disease outbreaks go hand in hand. Whether it’s anthrax, mad cow disease, foot-and-mouth disease, bird flu or, going back to the 1990s, ebola—news of an outbreak generates fear that’s disproportionate to the risk of catching the disease. In each of these cases deaths, if they occurred at all, were minimal.” He also goes on to say, “…in every year this decade—between 30,000 and 50,000 American deaths were recorded from complications related to the seasonal flu. Another 40,000 people died in automobile accidents. And each year, gunshot wounds account for 30,000 deaths, around 4,000 people drown while swimming or boating and 60 people die from lightning strikes.”

This is not to say that people should not be concerned. They should. This is a health issue they should pay attention to. But at this point in time, we have a virus that has been reported in only 65 people in the US (according to the CDC official report) . There have been no fatalities and only one hospitalization, and all seem to be on the road to recovery. There have been deaths in Mexico City, but only 20 have been conclusively linked to swine flu at this time. In a city of 22 million.

So we are suggesting some perspective and some calm. If you’re worried and don’t wish to travel at this time, that is obviously your choice. If you are canceling an existing reservation with a hotel, an airline or a travel agent, you should contact them immediately to see what your options are. Truthfully, most will tell you that you have no options and will forfeit your deposit. The reason for that is simple. They have no more control over medical circumstances and governmental advisories than you do. Trust us, your cancellation will cost them much more money than your forfeited deposit will cost you. They will still have to pay their employees, pay their overhead expenses and try and continue their business. We know this from personal experience. However, it never hurts to ask, and some businesses in the travel industry are creating some alternative plans for people who are wishing to change or delay their travel. Of course, this is another reason we always recommend people purchase travel insurance.

At our own Luna Blue Hotel, we have had some cancellations, some delays, and a number of new reservations for the upcoming weeks. We are certainly not in a position to tell people they should or should not travel during this time. But we are informing people that in our opinion travel to Playa del Carmen is safe, and we continue to accept and honor reservations. We’re trying to be understanding of our guests’ situations at this time, and so we have modified our cancellation policy to allow guests to change their reservations if they want to come later in the summer.

If you’re planning a trip to Playa del Carmen now or in the near future, we hope this has been of some help. Despite all the hype and fear, the Caribbean Sea is still a beautiful blue, and the skies are sunny. And if you are going to be in town the 5th of May, don’t miss our blowout Cinco de Mayo party at the Luna Blue Bar.

For more recent information on this topic, Playa is Open for Business…Still No Flu in Sight.

Read our most current blog entry about safety:
Safety in Playa del Carmen Mexico ~ 2012

Visit our Facebook page and become a fan of Luna Blue Hotel & Bar!

49 Responses to “Playa del Carmen, Is it Safe?? Part II…the Swine Flu”

  1. Mark & Toby said

    We are mad, crazy gringos and we are coming to party no matter what the OVERAMPED media says. Cinco de Mayo or BUST!!!!! But we are bringing Tamiflu or Relenza from our doctor just in case, a little common sense I think will prevail!! See ya soon expatriados!!

  2. Kathy D said

    We are scheduled to come to Playa on 5/11. The swine flu doesn’t scare us, but seeing Playa as a ghost town and everyone in masks is really scarey. Also, am a little concerned that we may get to Playa and have airlines cancell flights back to the states. Any info on Playa in the next week or so would be appreciated.

    • Everything is open. Again, not a single case of swine flu has been found anywhere in the entire state of Quintana Roo. Playa is warm, beautiful and no different than it was a week ago before “swine flu” was on everyone’s lips.

      • Playa is not a ghost town, and no one is wearing masks. Again, Playa is completely normal and looks just like it always did.

      • Darlene said

        Also while you are there, go see the Peanut Pet Shelter and find out about Coco’s Cat Rescue. Dog and cat rescues also take donations on line. In Mexico, not very many people donate to animals. They need your help. Great people in a Great place helping animals.

    • Darlene said

      We just got back from Playa del Carmen on 4/30/09. No signs or mention of Swine Flu there. Yes you will see mask at the Cancun airport as percaution. Just do what you would usually do during the flu season, wash hands, keep out of people’s faces. You will be fine! I felt safer on vacation than I do back at work in Dallas, TX

    • Darlene said

      American Airlines is not going to cancel all their flights out of Mexico. They have cut down due to flights not being full. You will have a way back on each day.

  3. Gimli201 said

    Hey everyone –
    Couldn’t agree with you more. Ironically, this morning on Chicago 720 AM – they were having a discussion group about why this has been considered a near “pandemic” when over 36,000 people per year die of the flu in the US? Why isn’t the flu a “pandemic?” Because with this latest and greatest Mexico “Swine” flu – it’s, unfortunately, the latest and greatest media story in the last month. Everyone is quite sick of the economy and Obama (although I think he’s doing a great job so far). Hope all is well with everyone down there. Hopefully we’ll see you next winter! Hugs from the windy city. 🙂

  4. Leanne & Scott said

    We just arrived back in Canada tonight from the best vacation ever, and we owe it all to the Luna Blue and the amazing staff! We spent a too short week at this beautiful place and the thought of ‘Swine Flu’ didn’t enter our mind once while in Playa…it all looks like ‘business as usual’ and like Tony & Cheri said there have been no cases in Playa or Quintana Roo so no need to worry (you have just as good a chance of getting the flu where you are!).
    The only time we ever saw a mask or ‘worry’ was at the airport (in Cancun and in Edmonton). On the downside, the crazy ‘hysteria’ in Canada made our flight sit on the tarmac for a while until Health Canada officials donning full suits boarded to ‘clear’ us…too much t.v. probably, lol…but I guess they say better safe than sorry.
    We’d go back to Mexico in a heartbeat (as a matter of fact we wish we could’ve stayed forever, lol…but the money and vacation time ran out) and are already planning our next trip back, making sure we add another stop at the Luna Blue. Thank you Tony, Cheri, Genero, Jaimie (sp?), Jorge and all the other staff who made this trip a memorable one. See you next year (or before, if we can afford it! lol).

    Leanne & Scott
    Northwest Territories, Canada

  5. Jim & Tate said

    Thanks for the article it has been very helpful. We have a family trip planned for Playa in May and we are NOT buying into the hype. We live in Arizona we have 18 daily flights to & from Mexico yet we have NO reported cases here. Sounds fishy, yeah I thought so too!

    We are so excited to visit & we are glad you guys are keeping the doors open. We will see you soon!!

  6. Raymeta McLaughlin said

    Thank you so much for the infor! My husband and I are coming down on 5/5/09 and have tried to find out what the real deal is. The t.v. has made it seem so ugley. We have traveled to Mexico before and had a great time,and are looking forward to it again! Again thank you for your commen sence!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

  7. Kosta said

    Do you have any real-time counter of the currenly infected people throughout the Mexico, per each state, like they have it on CDC web site per US state?

    On the other hand, think about that group of the NY students who were on the spring-break in Cancun and still got infected. Apparently they also stayed at an all-inclusive hotel, almost isolated from the rest of the country. It looks like their only “mistake” was that they had a stop-over in Mexico city for several hours only, but even that was enough to get infected.

    Also, there are a lot of Mexico-city residents traveling to Cancun area for the beach leisure, it will be enough for only one infected Mexico-city resident to infect the whole all-inclusive hotel he would be staying at within days!

    • This comment, while perhaps well intentioned, is an example of the kind of casual posting that has no scientific basis and feeds the ever-growing rumor mill about the danger of visiting Mexico. The purpose of our blog with regard to the swine flu circumstance is to provide information in a rational manner.

      First, no one knows–not the press, not this poster, not us, and more importantly not CDC or WHO–how or where the students in New York contracted the virus. If their plane stopped in Mexico City, yes it’s possible they contracted it there. It’s possible that someone was on their plane from another part of Mexico or that the students contracted it by contact with a person in the New York airport who was traveling from an infected area. The simple fact is: we don’t know where they got it. And speculation by lay people really doesn’t help the matter.

      Secondly, suggesting that Cancun is in some sort of danger of an outbreak because some Typhoid Mary from Mexico City will affect an entire AI is equally ludicrous. First of all, awareness of this virus is nowhere more heightened and a matter of public knowledge than in Mexico and specifically Mexico City. People in Mexico City have already been warned repeatedly to curtail their travel plans and time in public. Further, even if someone comes to Cancun, checks into some giant, walled-in all inclusive resort, there is no evidence that single person could cause the entire resort to become infected. Again the epidemiology of this disease is unknown. The fact that the doctors don’t know how quickly it spreads, how it spreads or how dangerous it will be is the reasons the World Health Organization is suggesting caution and preparation while it does its investigation.

      The casual comments by people that a single person will cause a wide-sweeping infection of a resort, a city or an area are simply without factual foundation. Speculation does none of us any good at this point. Broad statements of a layperson’s opinion about how this disease will spread do nothing but feed the rumor mills. There are many internet forums where this type of posting is being repeated again and again. It is our intention to keep our blog a site of rational discussion.

      Tony & Cheri

  8. Kathy said

    Mask tan lines or not, the only thing that’s keeping me away is a hurricane!

  9. Steve said

    Thanks Toni & Cheri,

    We are scheduled to be in the area starting 5/23. Having “eyes on the ground” sure makes us more comfortable with our decision “If the planes are flying we are going”. We also will make a point of stopping by the Blue Luna to thank you personally and have a drink.

    Please keep us updated.


  10. Aaron Fox said

    Thank you for the informative update T & C! My wife and I are coming out on the 10th and will stop by for a couple cold beers!

  11. Jess said

    Hello Toni and Cheri!

    Quick question…do you live down there? Or are you going to at least be around a few more weeks? Our trip to Playa del Carmen is not scheduled till May 16th…and trust me, I DO NOT want to cancel it! I am going to keep this chat in my favorites, and hope to gather some updates every now and then, I would appreciate it very much!

    Thank you!

  12. victoria said

    I work in health care and have come across scarier things…so we are still coming down this weekend, with our Tamiflu. My friends who are suppose to come with us are concerned because of their 4y/o child. They weren’t really worried but several MDs made them feel bad about going to Playa del Carmen becasue the CDC is advising not to go…have you seen other US citizens bringing young children? What are people’s thoughts regarding this?

  13. nearlynormalized said

    Enjoy and may the GOD’S be with you!!!! You only live once and phuque it, have a great time.

  14. liz huff said

    my husband and i are planning on going to playa 5/31 for 8 glorious days, we were there 2 years ago and are counting the days, why does the “regular flu” not being called pandemic when
    45 – 60 thousand people die from that every year? thanks for this blog i will check in couple more times before we go, will make sure to find you and have a drink, are you on 5th street?

  15. Joseph said

    Thank you for this valuable information…but mostly for the common sense and reason gifted in your blog. Having lived through a similar set of evolving circumstances here in Toronto(SARS Crisis 2003) I can tell you first hand that the hype, misinformation and the media’s seemingly senastionalistic default drives fear and over reaction. Yes, this is a serious issue and people have and may continue to lose their lives…this is indeed a tragedy…..but living one’s life tehtered by impractical fear is sad, wasteful and unnecessary. Prudent, practical and commen sense precautions are definitely warranted but lets not forget common sense and live in fear!
    The updates are fantastic and I will be there in Playa for two weeks commencing may 4th and will enjoy the beautiful people and all this special place offers.


  16. Amy2 said

    I’ve been checking your blog every few days and glad to see some tourists are not cancelling their plans. I’m in St. Louis and as of this morning, there are cases in Chicago and Kansas City…only a matter of time before it shows up here. In that event, I’m as likely to catch the flu at the grocery store or post office as I am on a beach in Playa. The only thing that would keep us away is closed businesses. Just wanted to check that bars/restaurants are still open? We’ll be there the 8th, and our group will have search out your bar for drinks as well 🙂 Thanks for the real time information!

  17. Mommentator said

    Just got back from Playa…. sun was warm, drinks were awesome, and I’m fit as a fiddle. There are absolutely no problems, and if there were: rest and hydrate. My goodness. It’s just the flu! You can get it at the gas station.

    Cheers to the beautiful beaches and helpful locals. Make sure to visit the fabulous shopping and enjoy the local beaches. Very safe and super fun.

  18. G said

    We are packing our bags!!! We will be in Playa by 9pm 2mrow.

  19. J Nunes said

    Coming by myself next week!!!! – Much to the dismay of my work, who has been hounding me mercilessly about the “Danger” and the fact that I’m going to “infect” the entire office. Give me a break – there’s more cases here in Texas than in Playa – which if I understand correctly is still ZERO.

  20. ComingtoCoz said

    I wish someone would pay me to go Mexico right now!

    As long as American Airlines is flying, we will arrive in Cozumel on May 15th! I don’t want to see resorts and locals suffer, but I am kind digging having less folks at the resort – Dare i say it, but I might actually be able to sleep until 8 am and still get good seat at the pool!
    Maybe even a good room location by the beach!

    I am bringing Tamiflu – just in case.

  21. Megan said

    Hello Tony & Cheri,

    Thanks for the blog, it makes me feel at ease after we’re being fed by the media. I hope you don’t mind the use of your blog to receive the thoughts on any who have recently left/arrived at the airport. Just curious what we should expect when we arrive, read at the cancun airports website that “Mexico has instituted swine flu screening at airports and land borders for travelers departing Mexico” Any info would be much appreciated. Can’t wait 2 weeks from today!

    • We haven’t been to the airport since this started, but we did have a guest say she had to fill out a form stating whether or not she felt ill. (She felt fine.) I’m flying back to Sacramento on Monday to visit my mom, so we’ll have a better idea then–at least for people leaving Mexico! Hope my family doesn’t put me in “quarantine!” LOL

  22. Kristin said

    Very informative, thanks… we’re leaving for QR and Playa in twelve hours. We’re closer to the “epidemic” here than we will be there. I can’t wait to sit on the beach!

  23. Michelle said

    Thank for all the information and reassurance. We are scheduled to leave for Playa on the 7th and so far have not cancelled our plans. The only thing that might hold me back now is the recent check of the weather forcast! Tell me it is not going to be raining all week!

  24. Michelle said

    LOL, that is what the stupid weather channel is saying! What is up with that?

  25. Kristin said

    We’re in Playa right now and it’s gorgeous… a little windy, but who cares? Been here for almost 48 hours and do not feel a single trace of a flu, everyone else appears healthy and happy:)

  26. Hiram said

    Regarding playa i’m more worried about my budget, i’ll try to not get back without a cent, bury me in mamitas.

  27. Andre said

    Has all the hype effective the dive operators? I’m coming down in two weeks.

  28. Mark said

    We’re scheduled to be in Playa Del Carmen in three weeks. I’ve read most of the posts on this website and wanted to say thank you for the invaluable info..Can anyone who is there, or just recently returned speak to the occupancy of the resorts, restaurants, bars ect…Are there people around, it is busy with tourists?
    We’ve checked our flight and all the folks are still booked.

    I’m looking for honest facts because we’ve got a large group heading down there and some are hesistant to go because of the information they’ve received via media outlets.

    What’s it like? Are all the restaurants open for business, are people in the hotel pools ect.. Please help us make our decision one way or another.

  29. Amy2 said

    I just returned from Playa Del Carmen two days ago. Yes, everything was open, with the exception of Coco Bongo, the large nightclub in town. Curiously, the Luna Blue bar was closed the night we went by (what happened?). We stayed in a friend’s condo, but we visited a local resort everyday for the food/drinks/beach, and they were taking every precaution to avoid getting people sick–requiring guests to use purell when entering the restuarants, serving you at the buffet instead of self-serve, etc. The grocery store we stopped at had all employees handling food in masks and gloves. The weather was perfect, and there were tourists everywhere, just not as many. I’d say go and enjoy! No one in our group has felt sick since we returned.

  30. Steve said

    Good to hear that everyone has enjoyed there trip. We leave 5/23 and are looking for a few recommendations for good food at reasonable prices in Playa Del Carmen.

    We are staying at a time share a little north but anticipate spending time in Playa. Also looking for a beach that is not commercial with sandy entry.

    We will stop by and have a drink at the Luna Blue and know it is closed Sunday.

    • Amy2 said

      Steve, if you’re still there and find yourself near the Hacienda Vista Real Hotel/Spa (right near where I stayed last month), there’s a great little place next to a convience store on the same road. I know, sounds confusing, but the food was way better than a few of the pricy places we ate at on 5th Ave. Grab a cab, tell them to take you to Hacienda and keep your eyes open. It’s on the left, a block or so before the hotel 🙂

      Hope you’re enjoying your trip.

  31. cancun photography said

    Of course, what a great site and informative posts, I will bookmark.

  32. […] flu.  This, despite, the news media reporting that swine flu was all over Mexico.  I found this blog post by Toni and Cheri useful, TripAdvisor (one of my favorite sites for travel and restaurant reviews) had a whole forum […]

  33. Good evening

    I am really glad to know the happenings and what you guys doing out there, I am thinking of leaving for Mexico in next month and I might see you guys there, lets party =)



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