Monday, April 27, 2009

I'd rather be in Hong Kong: where to go in the event of an epidemic

Crystal Zheng

As Swine Flu begins to appear in more and more places across the globe, the city most prepared for it may be Hong Kong. With lessons learned from the not so distant SARS legacy, which killed almost 300 people, Hong Kong has since instituted reforms and created a system incredibly ready to prevent and mobilize action against any epidemic. Can anyone not be impressed by its facial-temperature readers built into the security gates at the airport, designed to detect fevers? Anyone passing through with a fever will immediately be quarantined until swine flu tests (which take two days) are confirmed negative. Health centers have been established to accommodate a potential large influx of patients due to epidemics, and funding has been appropriated to disease research.
Think back to Hong Kong of 2003: a horribly disjunct system with no communication between government departments, the public health services sector, and the private health sector; no plan in place to respond to a sudden epidemic; covering up of information and non-cooperation from the central Chinese government; insufficient capacity to respond to an overflow of patients. (for more info:
I am relieved to see that Hong Kong has learned its lesson from SARS, and as a result has become one of the safest cities to be in during an epidemic. I’m surprised that more nations did not take Hong Kong as a warning to begin developing their own disease control programs. If in 2003 Mexico City had started to do so, then perhaps today’s events would not be happening.

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