Adela María Gutiérrez fell ill in the beginning of April with what she thought was a bad cold. She tried aspirin and antibiotics, bed rest and moist towels, but nothing brought down her soaring fever, reduced her aches and pains, or boosted her energy level.
It would be more than a week before Mrs. Gutiérrez went to Oaxaca’s General Hospital, where she arrived listless and barely able to breathe, her extremities blue from a lack of oxygen.
That delay in getting expert help may explain why Mrs. Gutiérrez, 39, a mother of daughters ages 10, 17 and 20, became Mexico’s first death from a new, virulent strain of influenza A(H1N1). It may also suggest why this country’s death toll from the virus is higher than any other’s.