SARS discussions - March 16 to May 22, 2003

SARS is going out of control here. If you read the papers, each day, the level of fear is higher. NOW, today, Saturday, the govt is finally getting tough. Did you see the photo on the back page of the Post today, of TRA staff washing the air vents of the trains and MRT cars? Wow.

I was going to go into Taipei today from Keelung, but after buying a ticket and waiting on the platform, I began reading the Post and said WHOA! this is dangerous. GOing into taipei, under the Taipei Train Station with all that re-circulating air, is plumb dangerous. I cancelled my ticke, got out of the Keelung station and went back home. Sheesh, this SARS thing is gonna grow bigger and bigger, folks. We are in the midst of a major major epidemic of staggering proportions and it is only going to get worse from here on out. Be careful. Stay home. Wash hands, yes, and wear mask.

I predict 5,000 dead in Taiwan from SARS before the end of this year, with 800 of them being foreigners. We are all gonna lost friends. If you don’t believe me, read between the lines in the news reports in all the newspapers now. THIS IS IT. We are in for major major deathville.

Please disagree with me.

btw – A Taiwanese female friend, wrote to me today: “Hi: I finally get rid of my cold completely now, but am afraid of getting SARS
It’s so terrible.”

And to omnilokwaicious above: yes, this is scary. You were not scaremongering, you were telling the truth. This is really gonna hit hard, day after day. What we need now, in addition to complaining etc, is to get word out to everyone as to how they fight this epidemic. Should we leave the island soon? By air or by boat? the AIT is now advising Americans NOT to travel To Taiwan. What should we do, those of us who are here, from all foreign countries? Go back home. try out luck with the crummy health care here? Die in peace.

yes, omin, this is the mother of all epidemics, and it is HERE now…

we need info: please post what you are HEARING…

Okay, I am freaking out, I admit. Please, post what you know, and what you are hearing from those who speak Chinese here. The news media is holding back, naturally. They do not want to cause alarm. BUT…

One thing I wouldn’t want to do now is get on a plane to go anywhere – and that would include leaving Taiwan. It’s well known how unhealthy the air in planes always is, because their ventilation system recirculates air that quickly becomes laden with germs from the passengers. If you have one passenger with the flu or some other disease that can be transmitted by coughing, sneezing and so on, then other passengers are inevitably going to be exposed to it. That’s why the fastest transmission route for SARS has been among air passengers. It only needs one passenger to be sick with SARs, and everyone else is put at high risk. Given the high possibility that there will be at least one person infected with SARS on any flight, domestic or international, I wouldn’t want to be shut up in that cabin with them.

But worrying as this epidemic is, we ought to keep it in perspective. It seems that the mortality rate has so far been no more than 1 in 20, which isn’t by any means terrifyingly high. If you’re reasonably healthy and have kept your immune system in good shape, then the chances of pulling through a bout of SARS should be encouragingly high. It won’t be pleasant to come down with it, but neither is it anything like a certain death sentence.

Most of the doctors I’ve heard interviewed on the Chinese radio stations (and they’re interviewing a lot of them now as the severity of the problem sinks in) have emphasized that the best precautions to take are: exercise regularly, eat healthily, and get plenty of sleep, to strengthen your immune system; wash your hands frequently, avoid crowded places, and wear a mask when you come into close contact with people who could be infected (including strangers in public places whom you don’t know about). That all sounds very sensible to me. I’d also advise others to do what I (and Imani, as I recall from the MRT thread) have always done – avoid touching any places that other hands have touched or droplets from coughs and sneezes have landed on in the MRT, on buses, and in other public places. That has long been my habit, as well as opening doors with my elbow, etc. I’ll be sure to stick to that even more strictly than before.

One more encouraging thing that I’ve heard repeated quite a lot on the radio today: it’s believed that the SARS virus can only survive for up to three hours outside the human body. So it’s not going to be lurking indefinitely in ventilation systems, etc.

The news media is holding back? In Taiwan? No way.

I’m afraid too, but I’m trying not to be. Here I am expecting another baby, and my older son will be here with us all summer from the US once school lets out in June. I hope we’ll be past this by then…

I second all that handwashing stuff. I am interested in what others think about the disinfecting though. I know a couple of doctors who deliberately do not wash or disinfect their baby’s/kids toys. It’s that whole argument about germs becoming more and more resistant and then turning into super-bugs.

We started wearing those masks when we first got here and would cough up yucky stuff after being out for the day. I think we’ll go and get some more.

Let’s also be more careful about what we touch while we’re on the mrt, bus, and other public places. I’ll have to learn that “surfer stance” that Maoman told us about once.

So those standard masks are no use, everybody says (although today for the first time or saw perhaps 1 in 20 people on the MRT wearing them. But what about these ‘surgical masks’. I assume these have some kind of filter that you breathe through. I saw about three people wearing them. Are they any good? Should I rush out and get a couple before they sell out, just in case this epidemic does get out of control?


Those standard masks are no good? But the ones we’ve bought have always had a filter inside. You change the filter out once in a while (how long are they good?) and can wash the mask.

Any kind of mask should be better than nothing if it stops you inhaling those germ-laden droplets that infected people cough and sneeze out. Medical authorities were suggesting on the radio that surgical masks would be the best choice, but any kind would do well enough. It’s serving a rather different purpose from the more sophisticated ones that you need to filter out the poisonous chemicals from traffic exhaust fumes. It just needs to be a barrier of some sort. You could even make your own from a scrap of cloth.

I’m afraid that it’s probably already rather difficult to find a mask in any shop. Of course they’ve been selling out faster than they can be restocked. Again on the radio, it was reported that mask manufacturers have already received a twentyfold increase in orders and are working round the clock to increase production but cannot possibly meet the demand. The government has promised to take action to ensure that there is sufficient supply, but it may take a few days (at least) to get sufficient stock into the stores. As demand will be rising all over the region and probably soon all over the world, it’s hard to see where they’ll source the extra supplies. But I suppose more local garment and other such factories could have their production lines turned over to making masks. If anyone has shares in a mask manufacturer (3M comes to mind), then they should be in line for a bit of a windfall. Inevitably, the price-gouging has already begun – the Fair Trade Commission has promised to get tough on that, but one wonders how effectively they can stamp it out. Anyway, I’m well prepared to pay over the odds for a couple of masks in the circumstances. I’m just rather annoyed with myself that I didn’t buy any when I did my weekly shop at Darunfa last Sunday – they had 3M ones on special display, and my girlfriend and I picked up a packet and considered putting them in our shopping bag, but they were rather on the pricey side and had carbon filters that we didn’t think were so necessary, so we decided to leave it and look for other more suitable ones somewhere else. Now we don’t have any masks, and I regret not buying those while I had the chance (I haven’t been back to Darunfa since then, but I assume they must have already sold out). Perhaps I’ll have to try making some of my own – though I’m not much good with needle and thread. But hey, there’s an idea for a money-making sideline for Filipina and Indonesian maids with a little free time on their hands (if any such phenomenon ever exists here) – sew up a few masks and sell them to the local corner-shop.

Just one more note of caution. A doctor on the radio mentioned that, apart from the nose and mouth, the eyes are a prime entry-point for the virus into the body. Rub your eyes with a dirty hand, or get the blast of an infected sneeze into your eye, and you could be infected. Wearing glasses of some kind or other would therefore seem to be another sensible precaution.

Man, I hate this on the BBC

"Countries with reported cases
China (including Hong Kong and Taiwan)
Republic of Ireland
United Kingdom
United States
Vietnam "

Go to their website and complain. I just did.


[quote=“Sir Donald Bradman”]Man, I hate this on the BBC

China (including Hong Kong and Taiwan)

Go to their website and complain. I just did.[/quote]
I just went to their website and sent my comment.
As a well-known international news, it should always report the accurate and proper fact to the public. Taiwan is an independent, Democracy country and we have our own President. Taiwan is a country and absolutely not a part of China.

[quote=“jenpenguin”][quote=“Brian”]Man, I hate this on the BBC: China (including Hong Kong and Taiwan)

Go to their website and complain. I just did.[/quote]
I just went to their website and sent my comment. As a well-known international news, it should always report the accurate and proper fact to the public. Taiwan is an independent, Democracy country and we have our own President. Taiwan is a country and absolutely not a part of China.[/quote]
Yep, I put in my two cents too:

[quote=“Maoman”]Dear Sir/Madam,
In the article on SARS (, you use the objectionable phrase “China (including Hong Kong and Taiwan)”.

Rest assured that China most certainly does NOT include Taiwan. Taiwan has always been independent of the PRC. Taiwan is a vibrant democracy with clearly defined borders, a well-functioning military, civil administration, and its own constitution. Please make the appropriate correction as soon as possible, as your current information is offensive to the free people of this small but thriving democracy. Thank you for you attention in this matter.[/quote]

Watched local TV news all day today, eating Greek olives and hoisting a few Heinekenners…

… and the focus here seems to have shifted over from huge Irak headline stories to at least 50 percent now focusing on SARS. As the news channels devote more time to the story, we know there must be more than meets the eye!

And what about that AIT advisory reported in the Times today? Seems the USA has advised that all non-essential travel to 4 countries, including Taiwan, be postponed until further notice. So if the USA is advising its nationals not to come here for business or pleasure or even stopovers en route to elsewhere, then what does that REALLY mean?

Do they know more than they are saying?

Also heard that Hong Kong (SAR) is asking the UN to have its initialism changed to … no, i got that wrong, WHO is asking that SARS be changed to SRS (severe respiratory sindrome) so as to not take away tourism dollars from that SAR over there called Hong Kong… is this true? So when do we start calling its SRS? And how to pronouce that one: Sers?


The USA government has this to say:
CDC advises that people planning elective or nonessential travel to mainland China and Hong Kong; Singapore; and Hanoi, Vietnam, may wish to postpone their trips until further notice.
nothing about Taiwan there.

Most government are just warning people to be careful. Canada, however, says this:
Health Canada and the Department of Foreign Affairs and International Trade (DFAIT) recommend that Canadians defer travel, until further notice, to the City of Hanoi, Vietnam; the People’s Republic of China including the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region; Singapore; and Taiwan and also recommends avoiding transitting those areas.

On a sidenote, notice how goverments consider Taiwan a country.

[quote=“jenpenguin”][quote=“Sir Donald Bradman”]Man, I hate this on the BBC

China (including Hong Kong and Taiwan)

Go to their website and complain. I just did.[/quote]
I just went to their website and sent my comment.
As a well-known international news, it should always report the accurate and proper fact to the public. Taiwan is an independent, Democracy country and we have our own President. Taiwan is a country and absolutely not a part of China.[/quote]
Hmm… last time I looked it was the Republic of China. Maybe that’s changed recently in the past few weeks…

Do you really not understand. or are you just being facetious?


Do you really not understand. or are you just being facetious?[/quote]
Hmm, perhaps I was a little bit sarcastic in that remark. I was just trying to add a little humor to the whole issue of whether Taiwan is a sovereign state or a province of China…

As far as understanding, what exactly do you mean?

With the current SARS cases, I was wondering… Is this serious or are we all overreacting?

And the number 1 ROC CDC action item for stemming the spread of SARS…

"Intersectoral Cooperation for SARS Control

In response to the SARS outbreak, Center for Disease Control has called for Intersectoral cooperation

Let’s stick to the SARS subject, and let someone be the foolish one!! Everyone knows the reality Taiwan is Taiwan, China is China.

Bought masks for my kids, the last at the Les Enphants that day, just $60 each. (Here’s a tip: The trick to getting a 2-year-old to wear a face mask is to let her see how cool her big brother looks in one.)

Avoided an indoor play area on Saturday. I don’t want to stop living because of this thing, but it gives my husband peace of mind to know we’re cutting back on the non-essential outings.

Kids are washing their hands more frequently, and so am I. I’m lucky that the 5 yo has had this habit established since we got here 3 years ago.

My wife has come down with a fever (101.1) and an occasional mild cough (every three hours or so). No other symptoms. Please, someone tell me I shouldn’t be freaking out, that this is just something relatively innocuous making the rounds. (How to tell the difference?)

My brother just returned to the US from Taiwan. He had been nervous about SARS before coming here. Then he came down with a headache and fever at the end of his stay. So when he arrived in the States he called his doctor, who urged him to come in immediately for 3 hours of tests administered by masked, gloved workers. They concluded he hadn’t contracted SARS because he lacked sufficient crud in the lungs.

While I felt his fears were unwarranted, read this article:

In particular, note how one person may have been responsible for infecting 78 people in his apartment complex within just a few days. I think I’ll take a taxi rather than a bus for the next few weeks (good excuse for the luxury anyway).