Tis truly the season to be careful

I have been sending out quite a lot of emails to friends in Asia telling them to be careful as the current coronavirus keeps taking its toll. I actually know of one person who was in Wuhan that caught it in December but China wasn’t acknowledging it then. He survived but the virus put him the hospital for a couple weeks.

I feel for acquaintances and friends that are taking a hit from this fast spreading beast.

When SARS (Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome) hit in November of 2002, my restaurant in Taiwan had been open for about eight months. It all started out as sort of an interesting news blurp about a nasty virus hitting Hong Kong. A month later, it had cases in Taiwan and people started getting scared. It had a 10 percent kill rate, so the Taiwan government took drastic measures to head it off.

Restaurants and bars were hit hard. If they stayed open (many closed) by government decree, all servers and kitchen workers had to wear face masks. It was an incredible pain in the butt, however if a place was caught not doing so, it was shut down and heavily fined.

I was lucky since most of my customers were foreign and wanted a place to hang out as SARS started taking its toll. Taiwanese residents avoided public meeting places entirely. So even though I took a huge hit in business, it didn’t kill us.

Movie theaters were closed as were kindergarten and preschools. The months of March and April just seemed to get worse and worse as more cases were reported and people started to die.

I was pretty angry at the animal market that started it all in Guangdong, China. The World Health Organization traced it to the civet cat, which might have gotten it from a bat. I asked myself why did the Chinese have to eat exotic animals like this to begin with? I thought these markets were shut down after SARS.

Apparently not. The Chinese government seems to have traced the new coronavirus back to a wild animal market in Wuhan.

The other crazy similarity about SARS and the coronavirus that is killing people now is the Chinese government tried to hide it, or at least downplay its danger.

The coronavirus that is hitting now seems to be way more contagious. SARS was contagious once the symptoms started showing. SARS is mainly spread through respiratory droplets in the air. The current coronavirus seems to spread from person to person while it is incubating and a person shows no symptoms.

Its kill rate is much lower than SARS at two percent, but given more people are getting it, it could kill more than SARS did.

Many public health interventions were made to try to control the spread of the SARS in Taiwan while I was there. These interventions included early detection of the disease, isolation of people who were infected, and use of masks and isolation gowns. A screening process was also put in place at airports to monitor air travel to and from affected countries. I went through the screens and I can say, you didn’t want to have a regular flu or cold with a fever going through. If you got flagged, you went into quarantine for weeks.

I know they are doing the same interventions from what I have read in the news on the current coronavirus.

The big question now is, will we be able to contain the coronavirus from coming into the United States? Right now, just a few folks have contracted it and no American has died.

One thing I should point out.

Flus from Asia are horrible. China in particular. I have been sick more often in China than any county by far that I have lived.

One flu I got in Shanghai lasted almost two weeks. It was not a little feverish and coughing flu. It was full on crawling to the bathroom and just sipping on liquids because nothing would stay in my stomach. I don’t doubt this flu would have killed with someone with a weak immune system.

The one I got in Beijing a few months later wasn’t much better, but it was over faster.

Flus kill. That is a fact. They have throughout history and in the U.S. they are deadly to many Americans over the years.

This coronavirus may actually not be worse than what I got in Shanghai or Beijing but this virus, as it spreads, should be an alert to take care this season.

Wash your hands often. Really, something so simple can keep you from getting sick.

Disinfect materials that can hold bacteria such as clothes, furniture and eating utensils whenever they have been exposed to a sick person.

Honestly, it just means being super clean all the time.

Avoid crowded places as the flu starts making its rounds. Here in Carbon County it really isn’t that big of a deal compared to the large cities I lived before. Sure, schools and public places might be dicey if a flu comes to town but hopefully people that are feeling unwell are home resting.

I have to admit I feel pretty smart making the decision to leave China six years ago. One of the reasons was my health and the viruses that attacked my system several times a year.

A bright note; SARS disappeared more or less in July 2003. There have been no cases since 2004. Its not because they found a cure, but because the world successfully quarantined it and SARS died out.

I am hopeful the coronavirus will not get a hold in the U.S. and will meet a similar fate that SARS had once summer kicked in.

February, March and April are still to come and the good ol’ USA flus are still rearing their ugly heads. So, flu shot or not, these next few months are times to be vigilant about keeping germs at bay.

Its sort of funny to me. Growing up, my parents were relentless about telling me to wash my hands after everything. I thought they were a bit overbearing. Turns out they were right and I am glad they got me into the habit.

As I finish up my column, I just realized I haven’t cleaned my keyboard in a while. Better jump on that.

First though, time to wash my hands.


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