Sunday, October 09, 2005

The word on the streets...


While the rest of the world is freaking out about the possible threat of an Avian/Bird-Flu pandemic, the word on the streets here in China is eerily quiet. You would think that after enduring the SARS epidemic in 2003, the average Chinese citizen would be more aware of the killer-potential of the H5N1 bird-flu virus.

According to the October issue of National Geographic magazine, the 1918 Spanish Flu is also believed to have originated from birds. During the course of that pandemic 50-100 million people died, as almost “everyone on Earth was exposed to the disease, and half got sick”. Should the current bird-flu virus mutate and gain the ability to spread among humans, the magazine estimates that up to 360 million people could die.

However, when I question most people here about it, there attitude is completely blasé. Here is a sample of answers taken from my students (25-40 year old Chinese citizens):

“Well we survived SARS fine, we don’t feel we need to worry about this new bird-flu.”

“We all got worried about SARS, but then the scientist found out that it was just another flu.”

“The whole world was worried about SARS, but we were ok.”

Bird flu comic

“The newspapers say that the bird-flu is just in backward places like Vietnam and Cambodia, it is not China’s problem.”

It is hard to believe these answers when the world leaders are stockpiling drugs and holding international symposiums to prepare for a possible world-wide pandemic.

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