Background 1740 views 1 commentupdate:Apr 11, 2014

Cannon to kill a mosquito

A friend of mine recently travelled via Hong Kong and was somewhat surprised that she was confronted by officials wielding infrared thermometers. Indeed it is becoming more and more difficult to avoid being scanned entering Hong Kong as the city has strengthened its defences against bird flu.

Of course there is nothing wrong with being on the safe side, but the measures taken to scan travellers and the possibility that a slight raise in body temperature due to a common cold can potentially cause a lot of stress entering the country are like shooting with a cannon to try to kill a mosquito. A cannon that misses on top of that.

There is evidence that there is a possibility of human-to-human transmission of bird flu, but these are incidents. Almost all the humans infected by bird flu fell ill after direct contact with sick birds. Scientists are very clear about that. Poultry workers moving to and from wet markets and farms are responsible for the spread of the virus. Hence, closing wet markets resulted in a drop in further infections among humans.

That said, there is work to be done at the level of tourists and travellers. Educating them to be aware and stay away from everything but cooked poultry is the way to go. Organising barriers between people and birds in the minds and physically will have far better results than scanning for the individual sick person. Especially when one realizes that that person just was sneezing for hours in a plane packed with 300-plus fellow travellers, which didn't have the time to come down with fever yet. Hong Kong's best defence against bird flu is the tightest possible control of poultry production and imports.

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