It all started with a telephone conversation with my mother about 3-4 weeks ago. She instructed me to be careful of this new illness that was spreading quickly through Asia. I responded indignantly by asking how, exactly, she would like me to be more careful than I already was. "Where a mask?"
It's quite common for people in Taiwan to wear masks. Most often you see then while they are speeding around on their scooters. I imagine is helps cut down on the exhaust fumes that you breathe in these crowded streets. I imagine some people also use them as protective measures to prevent the spread of illness, or of contracting illnesses. However, I can't imagine the simplicity of these masks to be of any use in an airborne virus, which is what preliminary studies suggested about SARS.
And for those of you who know me, you know that I work in and around a community of people. It's is inherent in my profession to be in close contact with people when I teach dance, or English, or anything else. It's true that there are occassions when the possiblity of getting sick may be higher than the general population who might be hiding at home. However, the occurances of this accute respiratory syndrome (SARS) are relatively small for the number of people in the population. This is not to mean that there should not be concern.
This morning, I received a telephone call from an extended Uncle suggesting that I should be careful about the places I go because of SARS. The concern is increasing and the media coverage has heightened this concern in Taiwan. Now, I don't watch the news for a reason, but current news always reaches me. I gage by the increasing numbers of people mentioning this subject as to how prevelent it is in the news media.
There have been several deaths associated with SARS. It's of particular concern due to the international nature of travel these days, which makes the threat of epidemic a very real possibility. And although I have not kept up with the media on this issue, I have done periodic research over the internet, or made inquiries with doctor friends. I've been informed by different sources that the virus has been isolated and treatment is possible, though a vaccine may not be out for some time.
In Taipei, the price of face masks has severely increased. Life goes on, but the tension in the air is growing heavy with concern. Through all of this, people should remember that panic is the greatest enemy, not the disease. Fear prevents us from really living and I intend to live; very loudly and freespirited at that!