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Despite warnings, it will take more than a measly flu to keep Spaniards from puckering up.
Individualism is absent from tables where Spaniards eat out of the one big salad plate placed at the center, share the same tapa dishes and drink out of a large glass of beer or other alcohol that is passed around from one mouth to the next, known as a mini. “I don’t think young people will stop drinking minis, it’s part of the group sense,” said Callejo.
The Organizacion Medica Colegial, the national medical association, warned Spanish media against creating excessive alarm and reminded, in a press release, that “the H1N1 flu is more contagious than the seasonal flu but more benign.”
As of Wednesday, 23 people had died in Spain from H1N1 flu. The rate of infection was, at the time of writing this dispatch, 53.61 cases per 100,000 people, but that may change: More than 22,900 new cases were estimated in the last week of August. Health authorities do not have accurate figures for H1N1 incidence, as many people with mild symptoms do not go to the doctor. A group of “sentry doctors” estimates the number infected in Spain by extrapolating the cases they diagnose in their medical offices. Spain will stock vaccinations for 60 percent of the population. Pregnant women, patients with a chronic illness, health personnel and essential services like the state security forces and firefighters will be given priority. The vaccine is expected to be available in health centers at the end of October or beginning of November and in pharmacies at the end of December. Priorities may change and expand as the virus evolves.
Schools are starting on schedule in September. Neighboring France has reportedly decided to close schools with more than three infection cases. Angel Gabilondo, Spain’s minister of education, ruled out that possibility: “Closing all places with three infected people would mean closing down the entire country,” he said in a La Ser radio interview.
The human resources service company Adecco predicted the H1N1 flu, affecting 12 percent of workers, will cost Spanish companies 1 billion euros. Yet Sept. 1 was probably the most kiss-heavy day of the year: Employees all over the country welcomed each other on their first day back from a month-long summer holiday.
Jimenez, the Health Minister, recommended carrying out life as normal. And in Spain, that means kisses.