Joi Ito's Web

Joi Ito's conversation with the living web.

Some more SARS stuff.

Earlier, I praised the WHO on their handling of SARS, but as the news starts to unfold, I guess it's not that simple. The tendency for the web to amplify fluctuation is probably hurting our ability to get a good sense of the actual risk of the situation. I think we should be focusing on what we should do to minimize risk rather than freaking out about it. On the other hand, it still appears we know so little about it. The question is whether the damage from freaking out exceeds the risk that SARS poses...


I'm living in SCARS central... I live and work right between all the major medical research hospitals, and in between 2 of the 6 chinatowns in the Greater Toronto Area.

The WHO has identified Toronto as a major outbreak location... with 7 deaths, upwards of 200 confirmed cases, and a number of hospitals and schools closed.

But we're talking about a disease with about 10% mortality rate, and no signs that otherwise healthy and unstressed individuals from environments that are not severely environmentally degraded are at risk.

I've started washing my hands more, and being sure I do it properly. That's it. Well, I'm reading medical health bulletins on what to do... which basically says "wash your hands" and stay at home if you feel sick.

One of the things that is keeping me healthy is that my lack of panic and stress is not impacting on my immune system negatively.

I'm sure that if airlines started allowing more fresh air into airplanes would probably be a great help as well... And perhaps I may take a mask with me when I fly to Romania next month, but that would be because I'd be stuck in a plan for 10 hours with a bunch of sick folks.

Good luck to you all...

NOW i know who you are!!!! :-)

Last week, two days after returning to Washington, D.C. from Tokyo on ANA, I got sick: fever ranging from 99-101, chills, coughing/sneezing, chest & sinus congestion, body aches, etc.

A year ago, anyone would have said, "Gee, you have the flu." Now, it's "You must have SARS, get away from me, you asian death virus carrier."

Oddly, on that ANA flight, I had a whole row to myself and nobody was sneezing/coughing near me.

Anyway, my fever broke in about three days and the sneezing went away shortly thereafter. My cough is still present along with a little wheezing. Normal bedrest, ibuprofin, echinacea and liquids did the trick. Was it the Flu? Pneumonia? SARS? Who can tell...

Ultimately, I think people over-react WAY too much to media hype.