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Thursday, April 03, 2003

SARS Comes to Michigan.

There are two suspected cases in the State, according to local physicians. Given our border with Ontario, I suspected we'd get something before now.

The Detroit News has also assembled a handy primer on the virus, including a map of where the cases are in the U.S. The bottom line is that panic is unwarranted:

Scary as SARS is, he [University of Michigan epidemiologist Dr. Arnold Monto] notes, we should all be grateful it's not a killer influenza -- as initially feared -- that's made its way out of China across the globe.

The flu transmits easily in aerosolized form through the air, he says, making for much more widespread, lightning-quick contagion.

SARS, by contrast, seems to travel poorly through the air, and generally only in "large drops" that a coughing or sneezing person ejects.

While those can be inhaled by somebody standing very close, they usually only project out about three feet, Monto says, at which point they drop to the floor. While much is still unknown about this illness, that suggests it would be unlikely to spread through ventilation systems. The upshot, Monto adds, is that SARS' spread can be slowed, where that might be next to impossible with a killer flu.

"Obviously, there's much that's still being learned," says Geralyn Lasher, spokesman at the Michigan Department of Community Health. "Since it's obviously been very serious in some parts of the world, we're taking a very cautious approach. But all the cases in Michigan are doing well and improving."

Health writer Michael Fumento also has a valuable perspective, although his report about the effectiveness of older antivirals appears to be inaccurate.
Medpundit regularly posts updates about the disease, so keep checking.

Finally, why the Chinese may have had such difficulty in containing the outbreak: the appalling misuse of "medicine" by the totalitarian regime instilled an understandable phobia toward doctors in ordinary Chinese:

Not very long ago — within the past five years, let's say — an American businessman of my acquaintance, a leading figure in the health-care field, was approached by an authoritative official of the Chinese government with a truly fabulous offer. How would the American like to set up a nationwide network of clinics, under his own name and with clear American identification? He would provide the medicine, the staff, the doctors, the technology. The Chinese would provide the money, the land, the labor force to build the clinics, and guarantee a substantial profit for at least a decade.

The American was impressed; who wouldn't be? And of course he was curious. Why were they being so generous?

The answer helps understand why it took so long for the Chinese to fess up to the existence of the new Viral pneumonia. The Chinese official put it this way: "we are having a terrible time getting people to see doctors, even for routine physical checkups. And this is because of an event that took place back in the late 1940s, following Mao's revolution. At that time, the government promised to eradicate venereal disease in China. And it did. Everyone was forced to undergo an examination by a certified doctor. And anyone with venereal disease was executed. Ever since, most Chinese stayed far away from medical doctors."

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