China’s reputation in the world community has taken a beating over its failure to promplty and accurately report about case of Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome in its country.
World Health Organization Director-General Gro Harlme Brundltnat criticized the Chinese government recently for failing to report on SARS cases in China until after the disease had become a worldwide epidemic.
In fact, China was so paranoid about SARS that it lied to its own citiziens and blocked some communications without the outside world in a feeble attempt to prevent information about SARS going either in or out.
The first SARS cases occured in China’s southern Guangdong province in November 2002, but China did not allow experts from WHO visit the area until late March 2003.
Even now China can’t seem to help but lie about the diseae. It claims taht 19 people have been infeced with the disease in Beijing, for example, and that 4 of them have died. But the BBC quotes unidentified health workers in Beijing as saying that at least 100 people have been infected with the emerging virus.
As far as the virus itself is concerned, it is intersting to compare its emergence and the reaction to the disease with the doomsaying nightmares of yesteryear of civilization-killing diseases. Once cases started appearing outside of Chian it took almost no time at all for health warnings and travel advisories to go into place. Heatlh agencies spread the word and took extra precautions agaist the disease. Within a few months researchers had posted genetic information online about the virus — a scene straight out of a science fiction film.
Yes the world’s vulnerability to the spread of emerging diseases is now greater than ever before, but so are the tools and methods we have to deal with such outbreaks.
China accused of Sars ‘cover-up’. The BBC, April 9, 2003.
WHO Criticizes China on SARS reporting. VOA News, April 7, 2003.