Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome


Well, I'm sure everyone's heard about the Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS) which is sweeping across the world at the moment. Hong Kong is currently the epicentre of the epidemic, with 10 dead and 286 or so diagnosed. The number of diagnosed cases is growing at about twenty per day, and there has been about one fatality per day since the reporting started. This drowns out the war reporting on the local news.

So far, all of the cases of infection are among those who have had direct contact with either the index case or someone in a direct chain back to him. Unfortunately, in a place as densely populated as Hong Kong, direct contact with a strange is astonishingly easy, as can be shown by the spread to date:

  • The index case was a medic from GuangZhou, who'd apparently been involved in treating the outbreak of pneumonia there around Chinese New Year. He came to Hong Kong and stayed in the Metropole Hotel. He's already dead. The Mainland authorities deny that they had this disease there, but if you can find anyone who believes that, tell them I'm trying to sell the Tsing Ma bridge...
  • A Chinese-American business man who stayed in the Metropole Hotel in Hong Kong, then went on to Hanoi, then back to Hong Kong after he became sick. He's dead, and anyone who treated him in hospital in Vietnam or Hong Kong is sick.
  • Two Canadians who also stayed in the Metropole Hotel at the same time are dead, and some of their relative are sick.
  • Three Singaporeans who also stayed in the Metropole Hotel at the same time are either sick or dead. Singapore has announce a quarantine for anyone who came into contact with them. Anyone sick who goes out and interacts with others will be fined US$ 2800. (They should do this in Hong Kong - anyone spitting or sneezing on others should be liable to getting fined and sprayed with disinfectant, as well as a huge fine. And a good kicking.)
  • All the cases in Hong Kong are either hospital staff, relatives of people who were or are sick or unfortunates like the Hospital Authority Chief, who made a point of visiting every hospital and is not sick with the disease. (At last, a Hong Kong politician, who may actually face some consequences from his actions!)

Meanwhile, each day the number of people wearing surgical masks doubles. People on the MTR, or just walking around in Central. (I'll try and take some pictures.) I saw a man earlier on today who was having a quiet smoke in a street corner. He'd move his mask down, take a puff then put the mask back while exhaling...

I've seen people who are coughing in public being avoided. I think that if someone was to try and get on the MTR while coughing and wheezing, they'd be firmly told where to go. (Probably with a boot.)

Meanwhile, the government is giving advice. They recommend that you should avoid crowds, reduce stress and breathe clean air. Hello?! Where the heck do these people live? Let's let the entire population of Hong Kong quite their jobs and live on a beach somewhere. Meanwhile, maybe this is a good time to introduce guidelines on the excessive prescription of anti-biotics in Hong Kong hospitals, tackle the horrific pollution resulting from too many people using their cars with a perfectly adequate public transport system (which is probably the best in the world), and really enforce all those fines on people spitting and littering in public places which are one reason that diseases spread so rapidly here. and maybe they could try and do something about the gullible nature of the populace. People here believe everything fed to them by email, bossy friends or just people they want to believe. Tonight I heard that it's ok if someone is coughing all the time, it's only if they cough sometimes, that they might have SARS. Pardon me while I roll my eyes.

While I'm waiting for the government to take action, I'm buying surgical breathing masks for me and my family.

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This page contains a single entry by dave published on March 25, 2003 12:00 AM.

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