The how long and why of China flu panic

The how long and why of China flu panic

Summary: China was successful in limiting the spread of the SARS virus with quarantine, thermal scans at airports and special SARS checkpoints. But it did cost some government officials their jobs, and the 2003 Womens World Cup was moved to the U.S., where it played to low attendance.

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TOPICS: China
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I am still due to head for Chengdu, Sichuan, in 12 days, and I feel fine.

But officially-sanctioned panic has set in there as the result of finding an H1Ni "swine" flu victim on a flight from Shanghai, the same flight I'm due to take.

(Shown is an empty Beijing subway car during the height of the 2003 SARS panic. From Wikipedia.)

A University of Missouri graduate student has not only been quarantined on his return home, but so have his fellow passengers, and the government is trying to track down the 32 who have yet to report in.

On a personal level, I was told overnight that my own host family has backed out and a planned school visit is definitely off.

Why the panic for what is, it turns out, nothing more than a seasonal flu?

SARS.

Severe Acute Respiratory Disease hit China hard starting in late 2002. Between them China, Hong Kong and Taiwan suffered all the deaths, and 90% of the infections, resulting from the outbreak.

SARS was a lot nastier than this particular H1N1 variant. The best treatment turned out to be isolation in a room with low air pressure. The current strain of flu, by contrast, responds well to common antivirals.

China was successful in limiting the spread of the SARS virus with quarantine, thermal scans at airports and special SARS checkpoints. But it did cost some government officials their jobs, and the 2003 Womens World Cup was moved to the U.S., where it played to low attendance. (Germany won.)

These are the lessons that are doubtless informing China's current response.

Personally I feel fine, and I'm strill hopeful of making new friends in China. But if a medical test is necessary at the Chicago Airport (my transfer point to Shanghai) it would not surprise me in the least. However, I'm hopeful that, as here, the panic will have subsided before take-off.

If the situation were reversed, with a 2003 virus causing panic and loss here, with a milder strain coming in on an airplane from China today, what do you think the U.S. would be doing right now?

Topic: China

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