By John E. Carey
Peace and Freedom
October 2, 2007
As November dawned, China said it needed to tackle the year-long food and product safety scandals as it tackled the SARS outbreak more than four years ago. That reponse, for as many as nine months, was a total disaster.
SARS is a deadly viral infection know by its full name as Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS).
Reuters filed this report on November 2, 2007, from China:
“Vice Premier Wu Yi — who is leading China’s effort to stamp out tainted, toxic and dangerous food and exports after a damaging torrent of scares — said lack of information at the village level and poor enforcement of laws were big challenges.”
She was quoted as saying:
“Looking back at the last two months of work, it can be said that progress has not been insignificant, results have been obvious — and this has not come easily. But there are still many weak links and our task is increasingly hard.”
“Everywhere must engage in propaganda, just like that promoting patriotism, public health and family planning, pushing safety knowledge on farm product quality and safety on a grand scale.”
“Agricultural departments must arrange special budgets, as during the SARS outbreak, to print propaganda posters and illustrated booklets, putting them into the hands of every farmer, and sending them to every rural school,” she added.
Well, we ask China: “Do you think we are asleep, stupid or uncaring?”
China’s reaction to the SARS outbreak was a DISASTER.
The below essay is republished here as a reminder and a cautionary alert:
China’s Ham-Handed SARS Response
Omen in the Future of Disease Control?
By John E. Carey
The Washington Times
Sunday, May 4, 2003. Page B5
The U.S. Centers For Disease Control and Prevention now says the deadly viral infection Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS) is under control and abating in Singapore, Vietnam, and Toronto.
China continues to experience an increase in SARS cases.
The source of the outbreak, or at least the first place it was diagnosed: Guangdong Province, China. Guangdong is the province surrounding Hong Kong. It is the most densely packed province in China and people there tend to live right on top of their farm animals.
In Hong Kong, for example, when you go to buy a chicken, a duck, or a pig for the family dinner, you get a live animal and it comes from a cage filled with 20 or 30 other animals. You can imagine the sanitation in this situation leaves a lot to be desired.
Some doctors are now thinking the first signs of SARS developed in the farm animals and then spread to the people. Ducks are known to routinely produce strange new viral infections that don’t harm the ducks but spread with devastating affect to chickens and pigs.
The virus then mutates and spreads to humans.
China has a population of about 1.3-1.4 billion people. That’s about 22% of the world’s population.
The population of the U.S. is between 300-350 Million.
Some doctors are saying the mortality rate for SARS is 5-6%. If that is true you could have 15-21 million human deaths in America, worst case – if the disease spread out of control and prevention measures failed.
That is why we all have to be aware.
Causing fear and anxiety is not the reason we mention these numbers. The point is: SARS may be the tip of a new communicable disease iceberg in the twenty-first century. As the world becomes more crowded and mobile, our ability to quarantine a disease like SARS early enough to prevent widespread outbreaks is decreasing.
China is a particularly dangerous nation when envisioning the future of viral infections. It seems as if the Chinese were very slow to react once people started to get sick and die of SARS. It might have taken the Chinese government two months to even admit that there was a problem.
The disease spread to Beijing and Shanghai. Government officials basically fired the mayor of Beijing and his health minister for their apparent cover-up of the extent and importance of the disease.
In Chagugang town, up to 2000 villagers torched a school earmarked as a SARS quarantine center. The villagers didn’t want the SARS infected in their neighborhood.
We also learned that China lacks sufficient medications, medical staff and hospital facilities to properly service their own population.
The World Health Organization estimated that only about 4% of China’s medical professions were prepared for a disease like SARS.
SARS deaths are still on the rise in China even though they have stabilized or fallen in Singapore, Vietnam and elsewhere.
China has not had a methodical, rigid, disciplined approach to solving this problem. China produced lots of furious activity but much of it ineffective and only for show.
Big headlines boasted that all movie theaters, internet café’s, etc. were closed. But if you really wanted to look around and find an internet café open for business you could. As you enter, they wash your hands with disinfectant and give you a face mask. These are questionable prevention techniques at best.
Isolation by quarantine has proven to be the most effective prevention and control method.
My colleague in China e-mailed me from an internet café in Beijing right after every newspaper there claimed that the cafes were closed. Once you get out of Beijing – and the further you get from Beijing – the interest in SARS avoidance and precautions remains low if it exists at all.
Another problem is at play here. People who think they are sick, people who think they could have SARS in China, are reluctant to turn themselves in. They fear the government more than the disease.
My colleague in China started a trip from down near Hong Kong at the beginning of April, and traveled through Beijing and into northern China (Jilin Province). The only place SARS awareness existed was in Beijing. There was virtually no SARS awareness or prevention along this 1,300 mile trek through China except in Beijing. And the Beijing SARS prevention effort was almost entirely for show, aimed at news and cameramen, with little measurable or proven effectiveness.
The Chinese government appreciates media manipulation and SARS caused the “spin machine” to go into overdrive.
So before SARS gets too far or we discover a new deadly disease, here are a few things we need to remember about China in the twenty-first century:
*There is no effective, centrally managed organization like the Centers for Disease Control in China.
*The Chinese government has a track record of covering up bad news like the outbreak of an infectious disease.
*China is a densely populated nation with cultural and sanitation standards and methods more than a century behind that of the western world.
*Many citizens of China fear their oppressive government and have a tendency to keep problems to themselves.
*China tends to “fake” efficiency and effectiveness in a lame attempt to manipulate the media.
Before the outbreak of the next vicious, deadly disease, we need to discuss these problems with China.