more swine flu news

November 10th, 2009

Following on from my last post, 新京报/The Beijing News has an article today reporting several developments in Beijing’s preparation for the upcoming ‘flu peak season. The headline states that the city’s elderly will be able to get vaccinated against Influenza A H1N1 from next week. The article itself states:


According to vice chairman of the Beijing Municipal Disease Control Centre Pang Xinghuo, an application to deploy H1N1 vaccine for over-60s has been submitted to the Ministry of Health, and it is expected that vaccination service in the community can begin next week.

But the article seems to be more a collection of interesting little tidbits of news than a single, coherent piece. Up until yesterday, 630 thousand Beijingers had been vaccinated against H1N1 and, as reported in the article I wrote about in the last post, the rate of adverse reactions is the same as that of the vaccine for seasonal ‘flu over the same period of time. When combined with vaccinations for regular ‘flu- which has been supplied free to over-60s and primary and middle school students, and for which vaccinations end today- a total of 1.9 million people have received ‘flu vaccinations, an increase over last year’s vaccination rate.

Now, I’m all for an increased vaccination rate, but those numbers don’t look quite so impressive compared to Beijing’s total population. Still, H1N1 vaccination has yet to start, so hopefully over the next few weeks the numbers will continue to increase.

What of those masks more and more people are wearing? First up, the municipal drug bureau says there are over 7 million of them stored up, which should be ample to supply the market’s demand. Apparently some company in Tianjin claims to have made a mask that can control the H1N1 virus. The municipal drug bureau says there are no such masks in Beijing at this point. And besides, according to the Ministry of Health’s disease control centre:


H1N1 is mainly spread through droplets, and standard surgical masks meet individual prevention needs. Healthy people should not wear masks in everyday life. As for the “control or eliminate microbes” function advertised by specific mask production and sales companies, in fact they have no noticeable effect on the prevention or control of H1N1.

I would like to bold that entire quotation for emphasis, but doing so would take away the emphasis. Try this approach instead:

  • Standard surgical masks are perfectly adequate.
  • Healthy people shouldn’t wear them, anyway.
  • There are no masks that can control or prevent H1N1

There is also an attached “related news” article which sets out the rules decided by the education committee and health bureau for how universities must respond to outbreaks of acute respiratory illness and fever in both dormitories and within class groups. To be honest, I doubt I could get my head around the numbers in any language, but I’ll try:

In dormitories:

If half the students in one dormitory have acute respiratory illness and more than 10 students in a neighbouring dormitory have a fever, then all the students in the dormitories must stop going to class and must be quarantined.

Class groups:

In classes of 30 students or less, if 5 or more cases of fever (temperature over 37.5 degrees) occur in one day, or, in classes of over 30 students, if 20% or more develop a fever in one day, then the affected students should be quickly taken off for treatment and quarantine. Campus hospitals are instructed to give the appropriate treatment to students with mild symptoms, and send those with severe symptoms up to the next hospital.

Also, schools have to check students’ temperature daily.

I hope I got all that right.

There’s also an interesting little note at the end about district- and county-level education committees being told to prepare for “internet education” so that education will not have to stop in the event H1N1 forces school closures.

Assuming I’m reading all of that right, it’s comforting to see Beijing making preparations for a possible outbreak of H1N1 (and believe me, school dormitories are prime breeding grounds for respiratory illnesses) without any of those preparations going “over the top”. It’s also good to see the government calling “bullshit” on these masks.

3 Responses to “more swine flu news”

  1. Sean Says:

    The second wave of swine flu has arrived as 84,000 contracted the virus in the UK last week Swine Flu UK

  2. Matt Says:

    While this country and the world over are making such a fuss about swine flu, has anybody considered the implications of allowing antibiotics to be sold over the counter?

    I know of at least one educated Chinese adult who discarded her 14 day course of antibiotics after two days because she “felt better.” In other words, her meds killed off some of the bugs, leaving the strongest/fittest bugs to replicate and bolster their own abx-resistance.

    You don’t have to be an epidemiologist to realize that such typical use of antibiotics is a powder keg — with the potential to result in a more lethal pandemic.

  3. wangbo Says:

    Matt, you’re absolutely right, and it scares me just as much as it scares you, but that’s a different issue.