Mysterious Virus in China Causes Worry, But...

Source: China Daily

Twenty-Seven People diagnosed with viral pneumonia have been quarantined in Wuhan, Hubei province. And those who had come in close contact with them are being kept under observation.

Any mention of the word "pneumonia" could trigger panic, as it brings back memories of the SARS (severe acute respiratory syndrome) epidemic that hit China and large parts of Asia in 2002-03.

Therefore, after a pneumonia outbreak was reported in Wuhan, people immediately started asking: "Is SARS back?"

No one can give a definite answer to that. People's Daily quoted medical experts as saying there is no empirical evidence to prove the pneumonia outbreak in Wuhan is SARS.

Nor did the local health authorities mention SARS in their news release.

But we can be sure about one thingeven if it is an epidemic, it can be controlled. Unlike in 2002-03, China now has a comprehensive emergency response mechanism in place.

Even in Wuhan, within 24 hours the local authorities identified the people who had been infected, where the epidemic originated, and who should be kept under observation. By Wednesday, the local market regulatory bureau had shut down a wholesale seafood market, believed to be the source of the virus.

The same sense of urgency was evident in Beijing in November when two people were diagnosed with plague. Within 24 hours, measures were taken to prevent the disease from spreading.

So every time an epidemic breaks out, the government can prevent people panicking by releasing timely information. In Wuhan, the local authorities were updating their micro blog accounts every few minutes, reflecting utmost transparency. And the more transparency there is, the less room for rumors and therefore panic to spread.

Let us hope the pneumonia outbreak in Wuhan is controlled soon.