Swine Flu Fears in Cancun

Swine flu isn’t here yet. As I write this we have no confirmed cases of Swine Flu in Cancun. But everyone is sure acting like it’s already here. I won’t bore you with details since my friend CancunCanuck has already laid it all out. Suffice to say that Mexican authorities are working very hard to stop the spread of this flu.

I’m getting emails every day from tourists wondering if they should cancel upcoming vacations to Cancun or the Riviera Maya. I’m telling everyone to wait as long as they can to make those decisions.

Something which has become clear to me in the last week is that Mexico has a significant lag time between finding a flu case “suspicious” and getting actual confirmation that a case is or is not Swine Flu. The reason for this is that there is not a lab in all of Mexico which can properly identify Swine Flu. So all samples have to be sent out of the country for identification and that takes time.

I don’t know how fast Swine Flu cases in the U.S. or Canada are confirmed, but I’ll bet it’s faster than here in Mexico. And I’m worried that this difference in identification time is skewing the data. Data which is being used by all sorts of people to make all sorts of decisions.

The fatality rate of the Swine Flu probably can’t be extrapolated until more cases are confirmed. And it’s likely that many cases in Mexico are simply not going to be reported at all, because they were so mild as to not warrant a hospital visit. Many are suspecting that when the data is fully collected this flu may not be more dangerous (in its present mutation) than a “regular” flu. But time and data will tell us this.

In the mean time I continue to tell tourists the truth, which is that it’s not here yet. And I continue to encourage them to wait as long as possible to make their decisions to change or cancel their trips to Cancun. There will only be more data later.

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61 Responses to “Swine Flu Fears in Cancun”

  1. Roger
    May 1st, 2009 07:57

    I am planning on visiting Cancun, Riviera Maya Resort May 24th. I was curious as to how the major resorts are handling the flu problem? I would have thought that they would be somewhat more issolated from the problem because of visitors coming in from other countries but I could be wrong.

  2. RiverGirl
    May 1st, 2009 08:11

    Roger – I’m confused. How would having international visitors isolate the resorts? I think it’s the opposite actually.

    The resort workers are Mexicans who live in the city with the rest of the population, so if the virus makes it to Cancun city they may be exposed to the virus when they come home at night.

    Given that the resorts are full of visitors from all over any cases of the flu which make it to the resorts will spread far and wide.

    I think that’s precisely why authorities here have put such strong restrictions on Cancun, they are trying to stop the Swine Flu spread before it hits the hotels.

  3. debb
    May 1st, 2009 12:17

    I am scheduled to travel to Cancun May 12-16th. I”M GOING!! Media is causing hysteria and panic as always! The term PANDEMIC is as with any flu happening at the same time all over the world! Neither US Air or AAA has cancelled my arrangements either. I’m plan on enjoying the sunshine and washing my hands often! RELAX!

  4. confused
    May 1st, 2009 12:55

    Hi Rivergirl

    I am so confused on what to do about up coming trip to CANCUN the middle of May. I hear and see all the news and not sure to take the risk. I have read your blogs and appreciate them. Other than the restrictions of clubs and restaurants closed, what are they doing? I called our resort and they state everything is normal there. I really dont want to cancel and go elsewhere but not sure about the risks. Have any cases of people coming from Cancun and only being there exsist? Thank you for your help!!

  5. greg
    May 1st, 2009 13:26

    what restriction have been put in place? Is there any safty in being in Tulum?

  6. RiverGirl
    May 1st, 2009 16:33

    Debb – I’m glad you are coming, you have the right attitude. Just be sure to wash your hands a lot. And stay away from anyone who looks sick while you are in the airport or on the plane.

    Confused – I think, but am not sure, that there have a been a couple of cases of Swine Flu confirmed in people who were in Cancun. But did they change planes in Mexico City or somewhere else where the flu exists? Did they catch it on the plane? I don’t know the answer to those questions. At this moment Cancun has not had a confirmed case of Swine Flu.

    If I were you I would probably come, but might be tempted to wear a mask on the plane and in the airport. I think your biggest chance of getting the flu will be during your travel here. But that’s just my humble opinion.

    Greg – The Mexican Federal Government has issued all kinds of restrictions and recommendations. There is flu screening at the Cancun airport now. Non-essential gov’t workers have been sent home. Large businesses where many people gather have been asked to close for 5 days. Schools are closed. There are no confirmed cases of Swine Flu anywhere in the State of Quintana Roo, not in Tulum or in Cancun. Not yet anyway.

  7. Sherri
    May 1st, 2009 19:08

    River Girl, First I want to say that I was a Gringa living in Mexico in the 1992-1995 and I loved every minute of it. I am still planning to travel May 16-23. I like to go to the party center and nightclubs there. Any concern that I should not do that this time? How about the tours?

  8. RiverGirl
    May 1st, 2009 19:32

    Sherri – The Mayan ruins and archaeological sites are all closed for a few days. But the party area, discos and restaurants seem to be mostly open. We will know more in a few days.

  9. Sherri
    May 2nd, 2009 07:31

    Thank you. I will not cancel until last minute. I really think this flu propaganda is really a cover up/diversion for something else going on, or a tactic to keep travel money is the USA. I have also thought about the fact that it could have been spread by a pharmaceutical company so they can sell money products during poor economic times. Are there a lot of tourists there now, or is it a ghost town? If so then mas tequila y cerveza para mi. I think you can use tequila in a place of rubbing alcohol since the stores are out of rubbing alcohol. I will keep checking this site b/c you have the real-time story about what is happening in Cancun.

  10. Roddrigo
    May 2nd, 2009 08:15

    Hey Alls normal here on Isla Holbox home of the Upcoming Whale Shark Season May 15th. No cases of anything. As usual this Media Driven” Flu is petering out rapidly. THank God of course but one must try to understand the Political Implications for this Unusual RUSH to Judgement! Maybe a ruse to convince ALL Americans to get a New Up-Coming SUPER_FLU shot that might contain God knows what. Thank God this was not foisted on the Public during the “Busy” Summer Season! At least this is May & things are slow anyway!Basically a NON EVENT & Much Much OVER-REACTION! Come on Down! &Enjoy all Cancun, Riviera Maya & Isla Holbox offer

  11. RiverGirl
    May 2nd, 2009 09:16

    Sherri – Cancun is pretty empty of tourists now. They’ve been leaving in droves. But the weather is beautiful right now!

    Here’s a story from the New York Times about how overblown this all is:

  12. Misty
    May 2nd, 2009 15:57

    I have a trip planned for Playa Del Carmen on June 3rd and I’m going regaurdless… I will just take extra precautions,the flu is here in the States too!!! I’m not letting this affect my vacation…the media blows everything up any ways.

  13. Katie
    May 3rd, 2009 22:34

    Are the ruins in Tulum, Coba, and Chichen Itza closed? I’m coming this thursday and REALLY want to see some ruins! Thanks so much!

  14. RiverGirl
    May 4th, 2009 09:37

    Katie – The ruins are closed as of now. But my understanding is that they will be reopening on May 6th, so Wednesday. It was silly to close them, no one is going to catch the flu visiting a ruin…though maybe on the tour bus getting to it…

  15. Julz
    May 4th, 2009 16:32

    My hubby and I are slated to leave May 11 for an all inclusive in Playa del Carmen. New reports of 2-3 cases in Cancun, but they are recovering. Hard to know what to do. We are taking the antibiotics recommended if we feel sick. Biggest concern is if the fun activities close down on us: the ruins, kayaking, snorkeling, hotel services. Do you think by then all will be up and running? How can we keep up to date? We do have travel insurance and could reroute, but would like to still go. Not too concerned about getting the flu, but don’t want to invest all in the trip if everything is shut down.

  16. RiverGirl
    May 4th, 2009 18:16

    Julz – I think things will be slow but open when you are here. The Mexican govt is backing down and lower their alert level. This virus is not as bad or as widespread as they first feared.

  17. Tiffany
    May 12th, 2009 12:14

    Will the nightclubs in cancun be open during the week starting May 21st-25th. I have a trip planned and was wondering will we still be able to have fun.

  18. RiverGirl
    May 12th, 2009 14:38

    Tiffany – I understand that the nightclubs have opened back up again. Things are pretty much back to normal now here. I’m sure you will have a great time.

  19. Taylor
    May 13th, 2009 12:31


    2 of my buddys and myself are heading down to Cancun to rage it up regardless of all this flu crap… We are heading down on May 30th. My only regret is that I hear it is preety much a ghost town right now, so I hope there will still be some people down there will to party WITH us…

  20. RiverGirl
    May 13th, 2009 12:41

    Taylor – Tourism is down right now, but will be picking up in the next few weeks. Lots of people who had reservations to come in early May have moved their trips to later in May or in June. No guarantee how many people will be here, but at least there won’t be long lines and the weather is PERFECT right now!

  21. veronica
    May 13th, 2009 19:41

    My friends and I have a trip planned to Cancun from May 20th to the 25th. I was wondering if the ruins are open and also how is the nightlife? I know it’s probably slow but are there still people going out and having a good time. We just want to be sure that we will have fun.

  22. RiverGirl
    May 13th, 2009 20:12

    Veronica – All the ruins are open and so are the bars, nightclubs and restaurants. It is slow, but you’ll have a great time.

  23. Paige
    May 14th, 2009 07:14

    Hi River girl,

    I have booked a trip to cancun at the end of August with my friend. Our travel agent has offered us the opportunity to switch to a different location e.g. Cuba, however we still really want to come to Cancun. Our only concern is that the night life will not be as good as it should be and that everyone will be on edge and walking around in masks.

    What do you suggest?

  24. RiverGirl
    May 14th, 2009 07:27

    Paige – People aren’t walking around in masks NOW! By August the swine flu will be long forgotten I think. Don’t switch, Cancun is great in August, it’s a perfect time to be here, the ocean is warm and the weather is perfect then.

  25. James
    May 17th, 2009 14:41

    Hi Rivergirl

    Me and 3 of my friends are coming to Cancun on June 15th from Scotland. Can you tell me if Cancun will be busy and will the nightlife be as good as it normally is???Ive been before and its a fantastic place,however in concerned that it may not be as busy due to the swine flu!!

  26. RiverGirl
    May 17th, 2009 17:53

    James – Cancun is picking up already, the tourists are coming back now. I think that by June 15th things will be close to normal again. Don’t worry about it, you’ll have a great time.

  27. goms
    May 18th, 2009 12:10

    hi riverG..

    we booked (6peeps) our trip back in March. and the 3 of us were able to have the full refund due to some cancelled direct flight from Los Angeles to Cancun. Now d other 3 are still on for Cancun since they cant get d full refund. I am still paranoid with the swine flu news. I do not want to swim and be paranoid with every move that i make. that will not be fun. So should we go ahead and re-book to cancun? Wat are the precautions that we must do? besides masks? HOw safe is safe re: swine?

  28. goms
    May 18th, 2009 12:10

    sorry by d way our sked is June 18-21

  29. RiverGirl
    May 18th, 2009 12:45

    goms – Things are getting back to normal now in Cancun. Some of the restaurant employees are still wearing masks, but regular people are not.

    I don’t think you need to worry about anything, by June the swine flu will be a memory here. Viruses in general don’t survive in high heat and humidity, both of which we have now. And it will only be more humid and hotter in June.

    Relax and don’t worry about it, you’ll have a great time.

  30. goms
    May 18th, 2009 15:36

    thx.. this made us feel better.. might consider pushing thru our plans. one last question. Are there cases already of reported swine flu in CANCUN? evesince it started? Also is better for us to choose a flight that WILL NOT have a connectiong flight in Mexico City? Coz ryt now fares are cheaper but i notice it has stop in Mexico City and it takes about 2-3hrs of wait.?

  31. RiverGirl
    May 18th, 2009 16:28

    goms – As far as I know there are a few cases in the state of Qintana Roo (where Cancun and the Riviera Maya are located). As of a few days ago I think the count was 10 or 11 cases in the state. So it’s here but it’s not widespread here by any means.

    Like I said, the weather here will be working against any virus spreading very far. It’s just too hot and humid here.

    As for going through Mexico City, well it makes your travel day longer if you do that. But I don’t see any reason not to fly through there if the price is right. I go through there regularly.

  32. Scott
    May 18th, 2009 17:40

    I am due to visit the Playa del Carmen area on May 25 and wanted to know how is the tourism down there and any concerns about swine flu?

    I am still undecided, but wanted to know if its really bad down there or just over blown?

    Also, I see you say the weather is great now, but on the weather sites, it shows that it rains just about everyday!


  33. Helen
    May 18th, 2009 18:56

    My fiance & I are have book our Honeymoon to Cancun! We are comming on July 1st. Do you think this whole Swine Flu thing will clear by then! I really want to go, but my Fiance is concerned! I told that we would be fine. I’d really like your opinion on this. I am excited about comming, & I know my Fiance is too! His family is driving me crazy, They are trying to get us to change our trip, but I don’t want to!
    Please help! Clear this comfusion! Thanks!

  34. RiverGirl
    May 18th, 2009 21:22

    Scott – All I can say about the weather is we don’t have the same level of weather prediction that they have in other places.

    The weather predictions you see for this area show a “chance” of rain everyday. The reality is that until today (when it actually rained for a whole half an hour) we hadn’t had more than 5 minutes of rain since February. The jungle here is really dry and we need rain right now.

    Ignore the weather predictions for this area. The only time you should pay attention to them is if they predict a hurricane, otherwise they ALWAYS predict rain, and we get very little of it. They lie to us all the time. We are all wishing for rain, but not getting it.

    As for the swine flu it’s overblown. There is as much if not more Swine Flu where you are coming from as there is here. Don’t let the Swine Flu keep you from traveling here.

  35. RiverGirl
    May 18th, 2009 21:25

    Helen – I think this whole Swine Flu thing is clear now! There are cases here, a few. How many cases are there where you live?

    Viruses don’t survive well in high heat and humidity. We have both heat and humidity now and it will only be hotter and more humid in July.

    Don’t let Swine Flu keep you from enjoying your trip here. That would be silly and it’s just not warranted.

  36. shawn
    May 19th, 2009 06:06

    Hi Rivergirl,

    I am traveling to Cancun at the end of May and wanted to get an update on the Swine Flu?

    Are there any confirmed/new cases in the Cancun Riviera Maya area? Should I be worried at all?

    Also, is tourism down from all this going? Do you know what the hotel occupancy percentage is at this time?


  37. RiverGirl
    May 19th, 2009 13:07

    Shawn – Well, I wouldn’t be worried if I were you. Viruses don’t thrive or spread well in hot and humid conditions like we have here. I’m not sure about the latest flu numbers here, but the number is low compared to the population here. Viruses just can’t spread far here with this weather.

    Tourism was way down last week but is picking up now. This past weekend the traffic through the airport was about half of normal, and it’s increasing now. Things are getting back to normal now.

  38. shawn
    May 19th, 2009 19:03


    Speaking about the hot and humid weather… I am traveling the last week in May and I took a look at the weather from accu weather and it shows that it will rain everyday and all day when I am down there. If I am lucky, I may get a couple days of sun. I thought the weather this time of the year is just perfect and not the rainy season, guess I was wrong!

    I will be staying in the Riviera Maya area which is not far from you.


  39. RiverGirl
    May 19th, 2009 19:55

    Shawn – Our rainy season starts on June 1st. But even in the rainy season it’s sunny almost all the time. We get more than 250 days of sun a year here.

    Ignore the weather predictions, they are just predicting a “chance” of rain, which just means it might rain for 10 minutes. Don’t worry about rain.

  40. stephanie
    May 20th, 2009 05:55

    Swine Flu Updates:

    Me and my boyfriend are due to arrive in Cancun on the last week of May and I am a little nervous about the swine flu.

    Should we be worried about the swine flu in the hotel, beach and airport? Is Cancun and the hotels taking extra precautions for this?

    Also, how is the weather down there this time of the year? Any rain or just blue skies?


  41. RiverGirl
    May 20th, 2009 08:05

    Stephanie – I believe I’ve covered all your questions in the comments above. Swine Flu is a non-issue here now. Rain is needed here but it doesn’t even rain that often during rainy season.

    See my comments above.

  42. diane
    May 22nd, 2009 08:32

    me and my family have booked a two week vacation in cancun starting from august 2nd to the 16th. do you think by then it will be safe to travel to cancun?

  43. RiverGirl
    May 22nd, 2009 09:56

    Diane – Cancun is safe now! Some hotels are even offering flu-free guarantees, that’s how confident they are that you won’t get sick while you are here.

  44. Karen
    May 22nd, 2009 16:23

    We are arriving in Cancun on June 4th for my daughters graduation present and we hear the RIU Caribe hotel is closed in which we are suppose to be staying there. I am to the understanding they are moving us to the RIU Cancun. are you familiar with these hotels? and if so what are your thoughts of them moving us to the other. I was kind of disappointed. Is the tourism picking up? Thank you for giving me all your help and this website is wonderful to keep me up to date.

  45. RiverGirl
    May 22nd, 2009 17:23

    Karen – Both hotels are nice, I’m sure you’ll be fine. The RIU Cancun is closer to restaurants and shopping, so you might be happier there since you can walk more places. The beach near RIU Cancun is little but it’s one of my favorites around.

  46. Karen
    May 23rd, 2009 14:53

    Thank you so much for taking th etime to answer my questons. It is great that this site is for us to keep up to date on what is happening. Thank you once again

  47. miguel
    May 27th, 2009 15:13

    we are booked for june18 so we really hope swine will not hinder us from having fun during & after d trip. wat are MUST SEE in cancun? if we have a little budget going..
    Food that we must check out? and where to buy souvenirs? is it better to buy tickets for some attractions here in the US via online companies or jas buy it wen we get there..

  48. RiverGirl
    June 1st, 2009 16:19

    Miguel – I don’t think Swine Flu will affect your vacation much at all.

    There are many good deals on tours here if you just Google around you’ll find lots of choices.You should also Google for restaurant reviews, everyone has their own opinion about what is good.

    If you’ve never been here before I would make sure to go to either Ek Balam, Chichen Itza or Coba. All of them are very interesting ruins.

    I would take a daytrip to Isla Mujeres. I would also go to either Xel-ha or to Xcaret while you are here. And you should go to the reef near Puerto Morelos to go snorkeling.

    Hope that helps.

  49. miguel
    June 2nd, 2009 12:11

    is business picking up already? is it getting crowded?

    are you in cancun right now?

  50. Amber
    June 2nd, 2009 12:33

    My daughter just returned yesterday from Cancun on senior trip with a big group of kids. They have been there since May 25th. Three kids have been confirmed to have the flu since coming off the plane. They were sent home with Tamiflu, masks, and a 5 day quarantine. They did not specify if it was swine flu or not. They said they have to send off to the CDC. We are all kind of freaked out about now. I am watching my daughter for symptoms and hoping for the best. Just wanted to let the public know! Use your best judgement in going.

  51. RiverGirl
    June 4th, 2009 19:56

    amber – Please post updates as you get more information. I wish those kids a speedy recovery!

    The press here hasn’t been talking much about the flu lately but I did hear yesterday that it has spread to schools here. I am not at all sure how many cases there are here right now, but will try to find out.

    Please let me know what you learn about your daughter’s friends.

  52. nate
    June 5th, 2009 01:18


    im going june 10 to 17th im a college student so looking to party how are the clubs doing right now? and is it about normal again?

  53. Amber
    June 5th, 2009 10:28

    Update – Senior trip kids – There seems to be only 1 more boy that confirmed to have the flu from our group that I know of. Out of the other three, 1 girl is still feeling pretty rough from it. I hope that is all that comes about. My daughter is feeling fine, a little congested. It seems a lot of the kids came back congested. I am just happy that they are back and that hopefully no other child gets sick. I am really disappointed that the media and health organizations are not providing more information. The public needs the information to make informed decisions about their travel plans. Thanks for the information and concern.

  54. Laura
    June 5th, 2009 10:54

    Do you know if the kids had the swine flu for sure? Any results back yet? What resort did they stay at? I hope they are all okay. We were there all last week and had a wonderful time. Thanks for keeping us posted.

  55. RiverGirl
    June 5th, 2009 11:44

    Amber – So were any members of your daughter’s group “confirmed” as having H1N1 flu? Or not?

    Being congested could be from the fact that everything is blooming here, allergies are awful right now. And it’s very typical for people to get sick after spending time here drinking too much and not sleeping enough.

    So my question is what were those kids sick with? Were any of them confirmed with H1N1?

  56. Aoife
    June 10th, 2009 03:05


    We are heading to Cancun on June 26 how is everything over there? Concerned on whether there are restrictions on travelling and also the likelihood of catching the H1N1? It is part of our honeymoon.

  57. RiverGirl
    June 10th, 2009 11:25

    Aoife – Things in Cancun are getting back to normal now. I don’t know where you live but the likelihood of catching H1N1 here in Cancun is probably no higher than it is at home, and may be lower. Viruses do not thrive in hot humid weather, viruses spread more easily in colder, drier climates.

    Enjoy your vacation I’m sure you’ll have a great time here!

  58. James
    June 11th, 2009 10:44


    me and some friends are coming to Cancun on Monday.has the nightlife picked up?


  59. RiverGirl
    June 11th, 2009 15:55

    James – Last night (a Wednesday night) I was in the Party Zone around 10:30 pm. And it was very busy, people were everywhere and a drunk guy jumped in front of my car, had to swerve around him. So yes, things are definitely busier now.

  60. Richard
    July 5th, 2009 20:42

    hello Rivergirl -

    anything new in Cancun about the flu… other than the who meeting that just took place? looks like i’ll be there next week, so if anyplace you recommend not to visit, pls let me know. thks, richard

  61. RiverGirl
    July 9th, 2009 16:02

    Richard – I was just in Maine where there were 128 confirmed cases of H1N1…and no one was talking about it at all. As far as I know we have fewer cases here in Quintana Roo (our state). There’s no reason to worry about Swine Flu here, from what I can see you stand a bigger chance of contracting in the US.

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