Sunday, April 26, 2009

Hong Kong: SARS and Swine Flu

Lights may go out in Hong Kong ©2009 Am Ang Zhang

From a chapter called Sars, Freedom and Knowledge in The Cockroach Catcher:
“In 2003 the world was in the grip of a new plague that challenged our knowledge of medicine to its limit.

For the first time, doctors and nurses who were normally in the forefront of the fight against diseases were fighting for survival from SARS (Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome), a new and dangerously contagious disease. The alarm was first raised by its first victim, Carlo Urbani.”

In The New York Times today:

Hong Kong, Minding SARS, Announces Tough Measures in Response to Swine Flu
April 26, 2009
HONG KONG — Hong Kong, the epicenter of a SARS outbreak six years ago, announced some of the toughest measures anywhere on Sunday in response to a swine flu outbreak in Mexico and the United States.

Officials urged residents not to travel to Mexico, and they ordered the immediate detention at a hospital of anyone who arrived with a fever and symptoms of a respiratory illness after traveling in the previous seven days through a city with a laboratory-confirmed outbreak.

At least 20 cases have been confirmed in New York, Ohio, California, Kansas and Texas, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in Atlanta.
The new policy has the potential to dampen air travel across the Pacific. Hong Kong has Asia’s busiest airport hub for international travel, with Boeing 747s arriving around the clock from cities all over the United States and Canada, though not from Mexico.

Ever since the 2003 outbreak of SARS, or severe acute respiratory syndrome, Hong Kong has used infrared scanners to measure the facial temperatures of all arrivals at its airport and at its border crossings with mainland China.

Dr. Thomas Tsang, the controller of the Hong Kong government’s Center for Health Protection, said Sunday afternoon at a news conference that any traveler who had passed through a city with laboratory-confirmed cases and who arrived in Hong Kong with a fever and respiratory symptoms would be intercepted by officials and sent to a hospital to await testing.

Until that test is negative, we won’t allow him out,” he said.

Do not travel to Mexico unless it is absolutely necessary,” he said.

One legacy of SARS is that Hong Kong may now be better prepared for a flu pandemic than practically anywhere else in the world. Fearing that SARS might recur each winter, the city embarked on a building program to enlarge its capacity to isolate and treat those infected with communicable respiratory diseases.
The city has also expanded its flu research labs, already among the best in the world and leaders in tracking the H5N1 avian flu virus. The so-called bird flu virus, which kills an unusually high share of its victims, has periodically triggered fears over the past decade about a possible pandemic. It is different, though, from the H1N1 swine flu virus now causing illnesses in Mexico and the United States.

I know in Hong Kong, there is no such thing as over reaction. There is tourism, but there is also survival.

See also: ASIA ONE; CDC

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