Sun, May 04, 2003 - Page 8 News List

Letter:

Close out China

It has been recently reported that the severe acute respiratory syndrome (SARS) virus can be transmitted through excrement -- even that through a person who has recovered. This is bad news for China, which has an out-of-control epidemic in Bejing and developing epidemics in virtually all of its provinces as well as bad sewage treatment. It all adds up to frequent outbreaks, with roaches and shoes trailing virus-laden human sewage everywhere.

Taiwan, to avoid getting reinfected by China, will have to either close it's border or institute long-term draconian epidemiological controls. China will represent a long-term health hazard to Taipei, and any outbreak here will have devestating economic consequences.

The only certain way to prevent reintroduction of the disease to this country is a seven-day quarantine for all travelers from infected locations. It is doubtful that the government will institute such a draconian policy to save the economy.

It is ironic that Taiwan, which has been trying for years to gain independence from the PRC, would be so heavily affected by the epidemic originating in China. Basically, Taiwan's fate is intertwined with China's, and it should be obvious that China will become saturated with the SARS virus. Any competent epidemiologist will tell you that China is now at a point of no return. The turning point was when workers fled the capital to travel home because of the outbreak, and took the virus home to their provinces.

There is no way that China can erradicate SARS from the poorer provinces, so even if Bejing can halt the spread of the contagion in the capital, it will be reintroduced from their provinces, which have poor sewage treatment. Quarantine, isolation and contact tracing will not work there.

By the way, expect the death rate from the disease in China to reach 20 percent or more because of the lack of ventilators and steroids and also available hospital spaces. Yes, China is a big weight around the neck of Taiwan. The social and political destabilization of China due to the atypical pneumonia epidemic will probably not benefit Taipei's independence hopes, but instead will probably only cause manufacturing/supply problems for the island's businesses, and cast a bad reputation on all the countries surrounding the mainland.

Unless Taiwan stays SARS-free, people of the world will shun the Taiwanese like the Taiwanese probably shun the people from China. Every time a person coughs, people will panic, and think, "has that person traveled from China?"

Brad Arnold

St. Louis Park, Minnesota

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