The next big epidemic is here and this time around it didn’t come out of China! Swine flu, a respiratory disease in pigs, has somehow spread to humans – infecting a total of 20 people in the U.S. so far and allegedly killing more than 103 in Mexico!
Perhaps relieved – almost giddily so – that the new equivalent to SARS didn’t emerge from their shores, China has been busy all weekend announcing their plans to make sure the epidemic never reaches its citizens.
Xinhua, China’s official news agency, boasted that the country “the technologies to detect the Swine Influenza A/H1N1 and is taking measures to prevent the deadly virus from entering the country.” Unfortunately for the pork industry – which only just managed to get a small foothold in the otherwise largely self-sufficient Chinese market last year – one of those measures is completely banning pig meat from Mexico and three U.S. states.
According to Reuters:
Shipments starting from April 26 will be returned or destroyed from Mexico and Texas, California and Kansas, the General Administration of Quality Supervision, Inspection and Quarantine said in an announcement.
Shipments before April 26 are subject to virus checks before they enter China.
Meanwhile, Hong Kong, the epicenter of SARS six years ago, has put in place what the New York Times called “some of the toughest measures anywhere.”
The special administrative region has strongly warned any of its citizens against traveling to Mexico and is making it mandatory for health professionals to report anything that whispers at a hint of swine flu to the government.
Most strict of all, Hong Kong government’s Center for Health Protection also said that travelers with any fever or respiratory symptoms who have passed through a city with lab-confirmed cases of swine flu and then come to Hong Kong would be sent to a hospital immediately. No ifs or buts about it.
“Until that test is negative, we won’t allow him out,” [Dr. Thomas Tsang, controller of the CHP] said.
An aide later said that the cutoff for having a fever would be 100.4 degrees, and that it would take two or three days to obtain test results.
So is all the panic worth it? We guess it depends on who you ask. While most media outlets – in true media style – have been willing to jump on the “The world is ending!” bandwagon, at least some people are more worried about what useless fear mongering will do to already crippled economies (of which Hong Kong is definitely one).
We’re not quite willing to enter the utilitarianism v. priceless human life debate, but it is interesting to think about: In the end, could there be some harm in being too careful?
Around the Web:
Don’t sneeze at others: SARS memories for a swine flu present
Swine flu: Twitter’s power to misinform
China’s Health Ministry issues notice on swine flu prevention (with links to more Xinhua swine flu coverage)
Photo by joelax