Joi Ito's Web

Joi Ito's conversation with the living web.

Yesterday, the NYT reported the outbreak of a killer pneumonia in Asia. I was freaking out getting ready to blog about it when the WHO just announced that it has gone global.

First the New York Times says it's an Asian thing.

New York Times
Outbreak Prompts Travel Warning in Asia

Hundreds of people in Vietnam, Hong Kong and China have been stricken by a mysterious respiratory illness that has killed at least six people and left all the others with severe breathing difficulties from which they have yet to fully recover, worried officials of the World Health Organization said today.

The scary quote from the NYT article was:
New York Times
"This pathogen is turning out to be a tough thing to pin down," he said. "Nothing is turning up, not a thing."
Then the next day, it has gone global...
Date: 15 Mar 2003
World Health Organization issues emergency travel advisory
Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS) Spreads Worldwide
15 March 2003 | GENEVA -- During the past week, WHO has received reports of more than 150 new suspected cases of Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS), an atypical pneumonia for which cause has not yet been determined. Reports to date have been received from Canada, China, Hong Kong Special Administrative Region of China, Indonesia, Philippines, Singapore, Thailand, and Viet Nam. Early today, an ill passenger and companions who travelled from New York, United States, and who landed in Frankfurt, Germany were removed from their flight and taken to hospital isolation.

Due to the spread of SARS to several countries in a short period of time, the World Health Organization today has issued emergency guidance for travellers and airlines.

So, what does "emergency guidance" mean? For 155 people on the Singpore Airlines flight it means being quarantined...
Some 155 other passengers who had been due to change planes or stay in Frankfurt were placed in quarantine there, while the remaining 85 passengers and 20 crew on the Singapore Airlines flight continued their journey, German officials said.
via IP and Louis. Thanks!


Given the present world climate, there's no guarentee this thing is natural. And even if it is, there's no guarentee that it's not *bad*.

Remember: the flu killed more people that the first world war.

So now might be a good time to make some preparations. I don't know exactly what: given that it spreads person to person, perhaps supplies so one wouldn't have to go outside for a while? Surgical masks?

I don't know. but something. In an age or air travel, there's no containing a bug like this.

This news is morbidly fascinating for me. Not only are we dealing with air travel, but also increasing rates of antibiotic resistant bugs, and increasing use of genetically manipulated foods (and the related pesticides) which we do not yet fully understand the impact of. It's easy to turn this into a movie but, we may be abusing our understanding of nature as well as science for short-term gains while not appreciating the long-term impact of our actions.

Killing the chickens....

Concern that a mutation fostering airborne human transmissibility could arise, making the final link in the pandemic chain, has the Hong Kong health department, the CDC , and the World Health Organization constantly searching for methods to improve surveillance, detection, vaccination, and treatment. The region that includes southern China and Hong Kong a historical, although altogether not well understood, source of new influenza variantsis high on WHO's hot list. With WHO's support, the city's surveillance system, widely credited for halting the 1997 outbreak, has been expanded and now includes 111 sentinel physicians.

Hong Kong Flu Still Poses Pandemic Threat | Emergening Strains | Increased Surveillance | Blip on Surveillance Radar scare the monkey:

In a seminal and controversial work of the late 1970’s “Discipline & Punish: The Birth of the Prison”, the late French philosopher Michel Foucault tracks the origins of modern institutions of discipline and social control, like the prison, and in a much-debated chapter titled “Panopticism” Foucault points out that by the late 17th century, efforts to combat recurring outbreaks of the Plague --such as had savaged San Gimignano and Europe in years following 1348 -- would eventually lead to urban protocols and management technologies that unexpectedly provided a structural and administrative prototype associated with the modern surveillance state. Ironically, epidemiological controls would provide the blueprint of what Foucault called . . .

this news reminded me a bit different thing. recently Japanese TV reported that there's growing number of pulmonary edema like symptom spreading widely in Japan, caused by spraying anti-rain coating chemical such as ScotchGuard in closed air space like inside of cars or houses. people here often use such chemicals spray on skiwears and shoes before going to ski, then get sudden breathing problem during skiing and then hospitalized.

if there's no virus or bacterium found on this SARS case, I'm curious to other type of chemicals in relation.

BTW you can even make vapor that causes temporary breathing problems by just burning red pepper in oil. don't try this at home. (I accidentally did while cooking curry. it was horrible.)

There is now a blog channel for discussing SERS:

all these deadly virus is mentioned in the bible, its all cause by human!!! Pls don't hurt and sacrifice the innocent!!! Pls spare them, Have mercy!!!!

I am Manjunatha from India i am BE mech Engg and Inventor and Scientist i had got an Ideia to make an anti medicin to SARS i had got full proof Ideia about this it is nothing loosing hearing this you will be either benifited by this in order to make comunication one of your panel responcible member has to make e mail correspondence with me i will deliver my ideia related to SARS virus and also i will charge resonablay and if it sucess full you have to make my name in your Research co-ordinatitors related to obtian solution about SARS i hope you will get back to me soon
thanking you sir.
Your faithfully.

Is it real, or a new variation on the Nigerian scam? ;)