Pandemic preparedness: “there is nothing to worry about as we are burning vinegar in the classrooms.”

The stuff a very cautious travel doc sent us to China with seven years ago. Tamiflu: never used and now very expired. Masks: used only by my daughter as a joke.

Hong Kong obviously has its shit together regarding contagious diseases given the SARS history and ever-present avian flu threat. Everyone entering the territory has their temperature scanned, hand sanitizing gel is everywhere and every institution as a plan.

Hong Kong schools take this stuff pretty seriously as demonstrated by the contrasting emails I received this winter, the first from my daughter’s new school in Hong Kong and the second, from her previous school in England.

First, Hong Kong:

We have quite a significant group of students off school, specifically in the Nursery, that are showing signs of influenza. The sypmtoms being high fever, sore throat, coughing and runny nose. We have been in touch with the health department and we will be introducing the following measures:

All adults & students in the Kindergarten will need to wear masks.

Students temperature will be taken daily, on entry to school

The students will be continually reminded to wash their hands

Windows will be open for good air flow

The aircon filters will be washed daily

All surfaces will be cleaned with bleach in a ratio of 1:49 (as opposed to 1:99)

We will keep you informed, please do not send your child to school if they are at all unwell.

Serious. Specific. Calming. (And I’m curious to know how they got 3, 4 and 5 year olds to keep face masks on.)

Here is the email from England:

This is to inform you of an illness some children have had at school.

Symptoms include a high temperature, bad headache which causes extreme dizziness (even sitting up in bed is quite frightening as the room may spin), stomach ache and vomiting.  The onset of a headache should be taken seriously as it may progress very quickly from a dull ache.

Both over specific on bits that don’t matter (like room-spinning diziness) and under-specific on things that do (like what the school is doing about it).

Of course, both are better than the information that a friend got from his daughter’s school in southern China during a viral outbreak:

There is nothing to worry about as we are burning vinegar in the classrooms.

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One response to “Pandemic preparedness: “there is nothing to worry about as we are burning vinegar in the classrooms.”

  1. Pingback: Dragon Boat Fever: Hong Kong’s culture of contagion avoidance | Expat Lingo·

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