I just had lunch with a friend from Hong Kong. He said people are pretty freaked out. All of the schools are closed and hotels are at 10% capacity. He says that you can actually trace the infections back to a doctor from China who visited Hong Kong for a wedding. He sneezed in an elevator and all of the people who were in the elevator are now dead. There was a rumor that the people who got the disease from him all died, but the people who got the disease from those people haven't all died and that the virus diminishes in deadliness as it is transmitted, but it appears to be a rumor. People in HK are stocking up, partially because of the teenager hoax which involved a forgery of a newspaper site blowing the problem out of proportion and sending everyone into a panic. Seven people are reported to have symptoms in Japan and are being tested, but they they have not been confirmed to have SARS.

Everyone in HK is wearing masks, although it probably doesn't help. Immigration officers in Tokyo are wearing masks, but only telling people who have fevers, have visited risk countries and are coughing to go to the quarantine office. People in China still seem to be under-informed and are not wearing masks.

New York Times
China Yields Data on Mystery Illness Reluctantly

BEIJING, April 3 — In early March, when a new mystery illness started hopscotching around the globe, Chinese health officials looked on in silence, as if to say, "This has nothing to do with us."

At that point, China was already four months into an outbreak that officials later acknowledged was the same disease, severe acute respiratory syndrome, or SARS. Yet they insisted that the situation was fully under control, shared none of their data and declined to join international investigations.

Dan Gillmor
April 3, 2003

It wasn't newspapers or television or radio that originally spread the word about the outbreak of a serious respiratory illness, now known as SARS, in southeast China. It was SMS -- text messages on mobile phones.

Boing Boing
Cory Doctorow 7:59

The Chinese government sent out six million SMS messages to Hong Kong cellphones yesterday, informing the populace that the web-page that reported that the whole city would be quarantined to contain the SARS outbreak was a hoax perpetrated by a 14-year-old who'd been arressted.

link
April 4, 2003 Paul Krugman on the economic impact of SARS

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