The Mexican government has closed schools, museums, and libraries in an effort to curb the outbreak of the “swine flu.”

The World Health Organization says the virus has killed dozens of people there, but it’s not declaring a pandemic yet.

Mexico shut down schools, museums, libraries and state-run theaters across its overcrowded capital Friday in hopes of containing a swine flu outbreak that authorities say killed at least 20 people — and perhaps dozens more. World health authorities worried openly that the strange new virus could become a global epidemic.

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said tests show some of the Mexico victims died from the same new strain of swine flu that sickened eight people in Texas and California. Of the 14 samples tested from Mexico, seven were matches, said the CDC's acting director Dr. Richard Besser.

Mexico put the confirmed toll at 20 dead, but 40 other fatalities were being probed, and at least 943 nationwide were sick from the suspected flu, the health department said.

Scientists said the virus combines genetic material from pigs, birds and humans in a way researchers have not seen before.

“We are very, very concerned,” World Health Organization spokesman Thomas Abraham said.

“We have what appears to be a novel virus and it has spread from human to human,” he said. “It’s all hands on deck at the moment.”

President Felipe Calderon cancelled a trip and met with his Cabinet to coordinate Mexico’s response. The government planned to administer its remaining 500,000 vaccines from the flu season to health workers, the highest risk group, although it is not known how effective they are on swine flu. It said it also has enough oseltamivir, the generic name of Tamiflu, to treat 1 million people, but the medicine will be strictly controlled and handed out only by doctors.

The CDC says Tamiflu and Relenza do seem effective against the new strain. Roche, the maker of Tamiflu, said the company is prepared to immediately deploy a stockpile of the drug if requested. Both drugs must be taken early, within a few days of the onset of symptoms, to be most effective.

Authorities urged people to avoid hospitals unless they had a medical emergency, since hospitals are centers of infection.

They also said Mexicans should refrain from customary greetings such as shaking hands or kissing cheeks, and authorities at Mexico City’s international airport were questioning passengers to try to prevent anybody with possible influenza from boarding airplanes and spreading the disease.

But the CDC said Americans need not avoid traveling to Mexico, as long as they take the usual precautions, such as frequent handwashing.

“We certainly have 60 deaths that we can’t be sure are from the same virus, but it is probable,” said Health Secretary Jose Cordova. He called it a “new, different strain ... that originally came from pigs.”

Epidemiologists are particularly concerned because the only people killed so far were normally less-vulnerable young people and adults. It’s possible that more vulnerable populations — infants and the aged — had been vaccinated against other strains, and that those vaccines may be providing some protection.

All eight U.S. patients recovered from symptoms that were like those of the regular flu, mostly involving fever, cough and sore throat, though some of them also experienced vomiting and diarrhea.

Scientists have long been concerned that a new flu virus could launch a pandemic, a worldwide spread of a killer disease. A new virus could evolve when different flu viruses infect a pig, a person or a bird, mingling their genetic material. The resulting hybrid could spread quickly because people would have no natural defenses against it.

I NEED to finish this painting!!!

Something that of late I have not been able to do, circumstance out of my control caused me to leave my studio - hence why I have not been able to freely paint as I used to. Painting is much like therapy, for someone with my levels of anxiety and creative mind, when the desire to paint comes up its a thirst that must be quenched, otherwise it might drive my artist mind to the brink of insanity.

For now I will gather my paints and brushes and set up a "in the mean-time" studio space that I will clear away at the end of my session and TRY to finish this one that i have been working on. She (the painting that is) is untitled to date, but if you are a follower of my work and collections, she is clearly from my BODY DISMORPHIC collection. So for now, I paint.

Andrew Zimmern's Bizarre Belize

Andrew Zimmern's Bizarre Belize
posted (April 14, 2009 - from the Channel 7 Belize News Archives)

Andrew Zimmern is known for eating the most bizarre things...all kinds of insects, all kinds and forms of animal reproductive organs, basically anything that moves, he’ll eat. If you’ve seen his show on the Travel Channel, you’ll know what we’re talking about but if you haven’t, you’ll want to watch it next season because Zimmern is shooting a show in Belize. Keith Swift got a preview.

Keith Swift Reporting,
He’s eaten Volga – a kind of dried fish in St. Petersburg Russia, nibbled on cow tongue in Russia, and eaten a fried pattie made out of the flesh from a brown bear - and he did all that in just one episode of his show - Bizarre Foods.

But when we met the Travel Channel star behind the scenes last week in the lush jungle of Arenal in western Belize he wasn’t eating anything exotic. In fact he wasn’t eating at all, he was creating …………….art.

Andrew Zimmern, Travel Channel
“I took a tour of the art park. I love art, so I was really interested in coming here. It is a great story that installations are left to allow nature to sort of surround the pieces here and morph and change the pieces and allows people to experience art in a different sort of gallery if you will and then I joined the students who have been working on this project for a year. So we spent the last hour or so finishing it and installing my monitor that I personalized and the little kid who is watching it sort of stunned.”

Zimmer took us inside the filming the first episode of his new show – “Bizarre World” at the Poustinia Land Art Park in Arenal.

Andrew Zimmern,
“This is our first show in the Bizarre World series. So it is a really a momentous occasion for us and we’re just thrilled to be ale to kick it off in Belize.

Bizarre World allows me to cover stories that aren’t about food. The show will be about half food and allows me to do things like this, art installation stories which is certainly unusual. It is a provocative idea. It is something we believe belongs in this show about Belize but I am not eating anything.”

But he still plans to sample bizarre foods in Belize.

Andrew Zimmern,
“I will be eating some stuff in Bizarre. We are eating some jungle rat, I am doing some Creole hot pot drop cookery, some traditional kind of stuff, and along the way I am finding anything from stinky fruits to termite nests that I like to snack on because I am kind of addicted to the taste from spending a lot of time in the outback of Australia.”

Keith Swift,
Has there been anything you’ve refused to eat?

Andrew Zimmern,
“The only thing that I’ve said no to was tap water in India.”

Keith Swift,
Why is that?

Andrew Zimmern,
“Because that is a three day trip to the hospital.”

Zimmern filmed the episode along with an 8 member crew. He says there is a reason why he chose Belize.

Andrew Zimmern,
“There are is more than just ancient Mayan cultures and beaches here. Now we are exploring both of those because we think there are stories interesting for folks who will never make it here but we also want to talk about the Creole population, we also want to talk about the indigenous food, we also want to take our cameras into the art park here. We want to connect people in the rest of the world, it shows in 70 countries, with the citizens of this country and show them really what makes Belize tick.”

Brent Toombs, Oxa Productions
“We will go to ATM for a day there, then we spend some time in Xunantunich. After Xunantunich we go over to San Pedro to spend a day there doing some stuff on the water and then some bizarre food type stuff at Rojo Lounge up in North Ambergris Caye and then we go down to Toledo in San Pedro Colombia Village doing kind of a Mayan feast with a family there and then we wrap up in Gales Point. We’re going to do a traditional Sambai with the people in Gales Point.”

Andrew Zimmern,
“I’ve been here for about a day now and it is a place I’ve always wanted to come for the last ten or fifteen years, very badly, and sadly I do too much travelling for work so I’m glad that I am finally here.”

No air date has been set for the show. Zimmern left the country over the Easter.