If it’s not one thing in China it’s another. In the short time I’ve been here I’ve lived through swine flu, extreme pollution not to mention the hazards of daily life including fake eggs, gutter oil and, in general shocking low levels of food safety.
Now I’ve got bird flu to worry about.
I’m sure you’ve heard by now that a new strain of bird flu has hit China, and not in some backwater town in the middle of nowhere. This bird flu is here, in my own backyard and people are starting to get worried.
This strain is H7N9, a strain previously not found in humans. 20 people have been affected and 6 have died so far. So far there have been no human to human transfers of the virus, and everyone who got it got it directly from the birds. Bird flu was confirmed in Shanghai and Hangzhou (a place I go weekly), and tens of thousands of birds have been killed and meat markets have been closed in other neighboring cities as a precaution.
The surprising thing about the bird flu is the access of information. China is not known for it’s openness, but this time word is spreading far and wide, and sanctioned by the government. Even my students are up on the latest information and the World Health Organization has praised China for it’s public outreach. (Though I DO feel better that the WHO is on the scene also monitoring.)
To be honest, I’m not really that worried. No person-to-person transfers yet, and I’m not one to spend time in the meat markets of chinese cities. (They are a tad shocking even after all these years.) I’m even still happy to eat chicken and eggs (you can get the disease through the meat and eggs if it is undercooked. If it’s properly cooked then no problem.)
The thing I’m most worried about is Chinese people. They have never been known to react rationally to a problem. When the Japanese nuclear reactor had a problem, people mobbed stores trying to get as much ionized table salt as possible in a vain attempt to ward off radiation poisoning. I mean, the people went crazy even though it was actually a worthless gesture that everyone, including the government, was telling them.
So far it seems like there are no major problems, and people, especially in Shanghai, seem to be taking it in stride. Though I have a feeling chicken will be disappearing from menus and supermarkets soon, and I’m sure I’ll see more and more people walking around with those face masks. It’s still in the early days of the pandemic, so we’ll all just sit and wait and see what becomes of this. Hopefully nothing.
No one can say living in China is boring!
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