Thursday, April 30, 2009

Watching and Waiting

A few days ago when cases of swine flu in Mexico, the United States and Canada were reported, friends and family asked me if there were any in China.

I joked that if there were, we didn't know about it.

And now the World Health Organization has raised the alert to Level 5, one short of a pandemic.

However here in China, apart from a handful of people wearing masks on the street, everyone is going about their daily business.

They don't seem concerned about it since the government has said there haven't been any cases of swine flu in the country yet and it has ordered students be taught about the virus and how to protect themselves -- washing hands, using tissues when they cough or sneeze and avoiding people who have flu-like symptoms. Didn't they teach them this when SARS hit in 2003?

China is about to start its three-day May Day or Labour Day holiday which could be a good or bad thing. Some who want to avoid crowds will stay cooped up at home, while others might take the opportunity to go outside and see the sights.

This will be a real test to see if authorities really do move quickly and also how informed its citizens are about going to the doctor if they have flu-like symptoms.

According to Dr Hans Troedsson from the WHO representative in China, the country is prepared for swine flu and has set up a surveillance system that looks into suspected cases and investigates them thoroughly.

While he confirmed China didn't have any cases yet, he stressed it was imperative for the government to report any possible cases as soon as possible.

"What is important is transparency and openness, not only to the WHO but also to the public. It's very important that the people understand the situation," Troedsson said.

In media reports on Chinese state media, there aren't many informative stories explicitly telling people exactly what to do in terms of hygiene and what precautions to take, which makes one wonder if the government is assuming alot of its citizens in terms of common sense.

In the meantime Singapore has taken pre-emptive measures by having many staff of businesses and offices working from home to avoid any positive cases.

One wonders if or when China will follow suit. With temperatures rising in Beijing today, the chances of a virus lingering in the air may be higher.

Although it might not provide much protection against swine flu, I may don the mask in the next few days...


muffin said...

enjoy reading ur essaies~:)

ks said...

armed with past experience of sars i think china will handle this new flu in a manner acceptable to the rest of the world.

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