by Joann Flora,
Acupressure, Nutrition Counseling, Qigong
October 07, 2003
The flight between Tokyo-Narita and Hong Kong was long and uncomfortable in the 747's narrow seats. You'd think an aircraft that large would provide a little leg and seat room on such long flights. I'd given considerable thought to the fact that I would be in airports and on planes nearly 24 hours between Seattle and Hong Kong breathing recycled air most of the time. Even though the SARS scare is past, people can transfer an awful lot of microscopic organisms between themselves in such close quarters. The man seated next to me from Seattle to Tokyo sniffed and blew his nose the entire way. I traveled with a personal air purifier that is worn around the neck. It draws in room air, kills viruses and bacteria electronically, and delivers purified air up toward the wearer's face. I don't know how effective it was, but it made me feel comfortable that I was taking measures to protect myself against used and dirty air.
The government of Hong Kong is taking steps to assure that persons coming into the country are not bringing in anything that would threaten the safety of its occupants. We were give a form to complete prior to landing requiring us to declare infectious diseases including AIDS and SARS. These forms were collected, and hopefully reviewed, before we were allowed to deplane.
From that point on, the signs
of caution were visible in every public venue. The airport shuttle
bus and other public transportation posted signs advising people
how to deal with respiratory problems, to cover one's mouth and
nose with tissue when sneezing or coughing, how to use and dispose
of used tissues, and that one should see a doctor if a fever
develops with a runny nose. Upon entering a restaurant or grocery
store, we could stop at a SANITATION STATION at the door and
wash up using disposable materials. Information signs were posted
in all appropriate places reminding people to wash their hands
frequently, especially following unsanitary tasks. Face masks
could be purchased in stores and gift shops for those who still
On the city streets people did not appear to be living in fear. Hong Kong bustled right along in a very western way. Chinese and western tourists went to the theatres, museums, and sights such as Victoria Peak in great numbers. The subways and busses were always full. The occasional face mask could be seen, but it was suggested to me that some people wear them as protection from the city smog. Though there was plenty of traffic, smog was not apparent in Hong Kong as it was in Tokyo.
We took the ferry to Mainland China, Guangdong Province. As in the air, we were required to complete a health questionnaire before we could pass through Chinese Customs. On the mainland side, very serious government agents inspected our passports and health forms. Anyone who looked even remotely unhealthy was pulled aside to have their temperature taken. A health form with the wrong answer could prevent your passage onto the mainland.
The City of Zhong Shan has a similar bustle to Hong Kong, but on a smaller scale. Again, no face masks are in evidence, sanitation is advised, and people go about their routines in a very routine manner. Like its neighbor, Zhong Shan is taking precautions about admitting sick individuals and recommending preventive measures as a safe guard.
An interesting side note to my observations since arriving in China is the noticeable absence of household pets. I saw none in Hong Kong. Granted, I was in a tourist area, but I expected to see visitors and city residents walking dogs. I did not. Thus far in Zhong Shan, I have seen one dog and two cats. The cats are wild, I am told. The dog belongs to a transplanted Seattle business man. There is some evidence connecting SARS to domestic food animals, specifically chickens, pigs, and civet cats. Sadly, some people were so fearful of their personal pets carrying or spreading the virus that they reportedly beat them to death, threw them out of upper floor windows, or in other ways, killed them for protection. The airlines and government now have considerable restrictions on the transportation and importation of animals, and civet cat, once a favored food source, has been taken completely off the market.
The economic impact in China from SARS was considerable. The developing economy here is very susceptible to fluxuations in business and tourism and it is appears that the government hopes to avoid a repeat occurrence. While it was slow to publicly admit and deal aggressively with SARS, it has rallied successfully and seems committed to preventing another outbreak of SARS or other communicable diseases. I feel very safe here. Now, if I could just find a good (any!) Caesar salad!