China Quarantines Canadian Students on Study Trip

H1N1 flu is a highly contagious strain, but not in China

H1N1 flu is a highly contagious strain, but not in China

I will declare that I am a Canadian who has spent a couple of years studying Chinese in China. An article in the local Toronto Star titled Canadians Quarantined in China reports that 22 Canadian students will be quarantined for 7 days in a hotel in Chongqing, China. None have fever or flu-like symptoms. I agree with the Chinese position to quarantine these students but the blame cannot be laid on the 22 unfortunate students themselves, but on the Canadian government’s laggard position on the H1N1 flu strain (formerly called swine flu) and the tendency of democratic countries for freedom of movement, irregardless of the consequences.

Yesterday a migrant worker from Mexico was allowed to return to his job at an Alberta farm, where he infected 220 pigs, thereby contributing to the viscous cycle and renewal of this virus. How dumb was that. All 220 pigs are now in quarantine. Canada’s reputation as a safe haven against the flu virus is again in tatters. Canada could have quarantined this migrant worker, saving the pigs and the international condemnation. This was both bad planning and bad health, but good for freedom of movement. As a Canadian would you like to share this meat with your family? I did not think so. These animals should be immediately slaughtered and disinfected. Canada has not done this.

Kids return from winter trips to Mexico are free to return to their Canadian schools provided they exhibit no flu-like symptoms. Ridiculous. How can you tell how long to wait for this highly contagious form of the flu? How about this: All travelers from Mexico are required to go into quarantine for 7 days. If they have no flu-like symptoms then they are free to do as they wish. Today they are free to infect anyone in their schools, your kids and my kids included. Their parents are free to infect their coworkers and the community at large. Yes the risk is small, but worthwhile if you want to stop this flu in its tracks. This was both bad planning and bad health, but good for freedom of movement.

An airborne virus does not care if the infected resident is Canadian, Chinese, democratic or communist. All it needs is person-to-person contact. It does not care how: a handshake, a cough, a water fountain, a touch on the shoulder. Let’s not ostracize the Chinese for standing up for themselves and showing us Canadians the better way to protect our own. I, for one, appreciate the fortitude China has displayed.

In order to break the chain of infection, one method is to not have contact with an infected person. This is exactly what China is doing. How more simply can this be explained? To not get infected, do not go near an infected person. If you are a country like Canada who values freedom of movement more than protecting the health of your citizens, then look to China for guidance. A flu pandemic is a real and scary prospect. Instead of stocking up on Tamiflu innoculations, which may or may not work, and are certainly not available to all citizens, how about a less expensive and more effective way: quarantine suspected travelers.

At 1.3B people China has a lot to lose if this virus get to Chinese shores. Unlike the bird flu, this strain cannot simply wing it into the country. The risk is simply too great to follow the lead of slack countries such as Canada and the US. If China wants to be the safest place against H1N1 in the world, can you blame them? I’d hop on a plane to Beijing, but they’d probably quarantine me as well.

That being said, there are reports that China is also quarantining anyone of Mexican birth, irregardless of country of origin. This is simply wrong. If there has been no exposure to Mexican soil within the last 30 days, then there is no way they could be infected. Though regrettable, this is also how China’s heavy hand works. Even more ridiculous is Egypt’s decision to exterminate all its pigs. Do they not have scientists that can determine if any of these pigs came from Mexico? Again, ridiculous. Exterminate a species if one member gets sick? Then again, do they know something our scientists do not?

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