Thursday, 18 November 2010

Hong Kong begins to shit itself

In this morning's newspaper (South China Morning Post) is a report about a woman in Hong Kong who has contracted bird flu - the city's first case in seven years.

Hong Kong's complete and utter obsession with hygiene is due to the bird flu epidemic which was responsible for about 300 deaths in Southeast Asia from when it made its reappearance in 2003. Authorities in Hong Kong have raised the city's bird flu alert level to "serious" as they cannot tell yet whether this is a local case or one which travelled into the country as the woman travelled through mainland China from 25 October to 1 November.

Luckily, "so far there has been no sign of human-to-human transmission", says Dr York Chow Yat-ngok, the Secretary for Food and Health. There is, however, a two-week incubation period - the exact reason they cannot correctly identify where this woman caught the virus. Her family and people who have been near her recently have been tested and no strain of flu was found.

Chinese authorities in the cities the woman travelled to say that they have no sign of bird flu within their jurisdictions, although Hong Kong has told them to keep their eyes open. Communications have also been sent to the Agriculture and Quarantine Departments (I know... there's a Quarantine Department - who knew?) in preparation for whatever may come.

It is not good news for Hong Kong. But the city is on alert.

I expect to see even more of these:

People wearing facemasks are prevalent in Hong Kong - due to the hangover of the last outbreak of bird flu. It is also why there are signs up everywhere informing the public that escalator handles, lift buttons and even carpets are regularly disinfected (sometimes hourly).

Health is a massive public concern here. This city is so cramped that you have no option but to be breathed on by other people sometimes.

I expect government to overreact. Which might not be the worst idea when it comes to health, I suppose.

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