http://www.citynews.ca/news/news_33963.aspx Mystery Ailment Affects Canadians Returning From Mexico Thursday April 23, 2009 CityNews.ca Staff It's one of the most popular travel destinations for Canadians looking to escape the harsh northern winters. But over the past few years, Mexico has received ongoing black eyes over concerns about personal safety (the murder of a Woodbridge couple), business ethics (last week's hotel debacle over the failure of Conquest Vacations) and its justice system (the long saga of Brenda Martin.) But now there's a new worry for Great White Northerners travelling south of the U.S. border - health. The Public Health Agency of Canada is looking into a growing number of reports about Canadians returning from the south and central parts of the country with a severe respiratory illness. The mystery malady has puzzled experts both here and in Mexico, who have yet to identify exactly what it is. The ailment seems to primarily affect young adults who went on their trips healthy but failed to return in the same condition. The symptoms begin as a flu-like illness and rapidly deteriorate to respiratory distress and breathing difficulties. Doctors in Mexico are well aware of its presence. At least 20 people have died there so far - mostly patients between the ages of 25 and 44. Hundreds more have been sent to hospital, with some winding up on ventilators. Even health care workers have gotten sick treating those who are infected - a disturbing similarity to what happened in Toronto during the SARS crisis in 2003. Doctors on this side of the border are being advised to look out for patients coming in with the symptoms, while the Pan American Health Organization - a division of the World Health Organization - is attempting to diagnose what the bug might be and how to stop it. Some experts believe it could a severe form of late season influenza but they haven't been able to confirm anything yet and are testing to see if it's a new kind of virus they're not familiar with. Symptoms include: Fever, Cough, Sore throat, Muscle and joint pain, Shortness of breath. It turns into severe breathing problems about five days after the initial infection surfaces. What should you do if you think you or a loved one has been affected and when should you worry? The outbreak is relatively recent so you if you've been back for a few weeks, you're probably O.K. And if you don't suffer from the major symptoms, you're more likely to have a common cold than anything else. According to the Public Health Agency of Canada, if you get sick when you're out of the country, you're required to tell a customs officer as you re-enter, in case you need special treatment. If you become ill after returning, see your doctor as soon as possible and tell your physician where you've been and what care you received while you were away. So far, no warnings on travel to the country have been issued although authorities are recommending any Canadians heading to Mexico get a flu shot. They say there's no real reason to worry and most experts say you shouldn't cancel any planned trips to the country. For more ways to safeguard your health before leaving Canada, click here.