Reflecting on the SARS outbreak of a few years ago and the continuing bird flu scare, one wonders what preventative measures have been put in place.
During the SARS outbreak, it became expected, even trendy, to wear a face mask (like those of doctors) from the first signs of a cold.Â Even now, its still quite common to wear a face mask when you have a cold or a cough.
Also, as a result of SARS, immigration points installed high-tech digital thermometers to determine if someone trying to cross a border was sick.Â However, I haven’t noticed them ever being used.
These extreme measures, in my opinion, are a bit ironic given the lack of basic preventative measures.
For example, the Chinese spit indiscriminately.Â With each wad of spit, millions of tiny germs fly in every direction, potentially infecting everyone within a 5-foot radius with tuberculosis or other airborne diseases.
The Chinese find it utterly disgusting when Westerners blow their nose into a tissue.Â They prefer blowing their snot out of their nose straight onto the pavement, in effect spreading millions of germs everywhere like when they spit.Â How is this better than blowing it into a tissue?!?!
Granted, I know its impossible to change the spitting habits of a nation overnight, but its been 3-4years since SARS and both Hong Kong and Singapore have successfully curbed its people’s spitting habits.
Spitting aside, the most obvious and basic precaution would seem to me to be SOAP.Â Bathrooms never have soap, except for upscale bars, restaurants, and hotels.Â Does that mean only the rich people are entitled to clean hands?Â If you really want to prevent the spread of contagious diseases, I believe it would make the most sense to put soap in public restrooms, particularly highly trafficked ones like bus and train stations, also rest stops and tourist sites.Â Perhaps the most ironic bit of this is, many have liquid hand soap dispensers already installed but none actually have soap!
Also, in a world where bird flu still lurks, how is it that people can drag chickens straight off the farms and into local markets (chicken for dinner anyone?) or drive them on a bicycle through the streets of Shanghai??
I think we need a reallocating of priorities.Â Instead of spending money on expensive thermometers, use that money to buy and refill soap dispensers.Â Instead of encouraging the masses to spend money on face masks, encourage them not to spread disease by spitting aimlessly.Â These simple precautions would go much further at helping to prevent the spread of infectious diseases.