A couple of Lessons From SARS

Monday, April 15, 2013 5:43
Posted in category The Big Picture, The Halfpat Life
Comments Off on A couple of Lessons From SARS

H7N9 has spread to Beijing,  is now transmitting human-to-human, and that foreign hospitals have now been told to direct patients with high fevers to head to the nearest level 2 / 3 facility:

According to new government regulations, Shanghai United Family Hospital & Clinics (SHU) is not a designated hospital to exclude the possibility of infection with the Avian Influenza virus. Any patient who has a fever in excess of 38 degrees Celsius and respiratory infection symptoms must go to a fever clinic at any public Level-2 or -3 medical institution in Shanghai. After Avian Influenza infection is ruled out, patients will be allowed to return to SHU for continued medical care.

Were it not for the fact that 10 years ago I spent a month in Beijing during the peak of SARS, the above anecdotes wouldn’t really mean much.  BUT since I was in Beijing for the entire affair, I think it is worth saying that it is time for everyone to tune in to what is likely going to become a very interesting situation over the next few weeks.  Should Beijing find itself with a pandemic on its hands that is

In thinking back to that time, there are a few lessons that I feel are worth sharing as the news comes in.

First, if (as) the shit hits the fan (and I am not saying that it will), face mask counts will be the first sign that something is happening that you should be aware of.  When I was in Beijing, I vividly remember the transition from 1-2 people with masks to empty streets.  It was a process that really only required 3-4 days, and on the day before everyone went home, the sidewalks were filled with face masks.   Designer and otherwise.

Second, if (as) the shit hits the fan (and I am not saying it will), all kinds of products are going to be horded.  Vinegar was a really popular one, but once everyone made the decision they were going to shut themselves in, groceries were emptied out.  Even the expensive expat stores.  instant noodles… faux-meats.. veggies…. GONE. Which for an American was a bit eerie as I had never seen that happen before

Third, if (as) the shit hits the fan (and I am not saying that it will), getting a ride out of country is going to be very difficult, and VERY expensive.  During SARS, that exodus began shortly after the international hospitals shut their doors to anyone with a fever, and the embassies recommended non-essentials to leave country as treatment conditions could no longer be guaranteed.

Finally, if (as) the shit hits the fan (and I am not saying that it will), firms who don’t have contingency plans in place are going to get hammered.  This was perhaps one of the most interesting things to watch while in Beijing.  Motorola was (as I recall it) closed by authorities after an employee tested positive, and there are a number of ways in which SARS can disrupt a business depending on the industry.  During that time, construction sites were closed, events with more than 25 people were shut down, and getting goods in an out of country was made all the more difficult

Just some things to think about as the H7N9 story develops.

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