Caught in an epidemic…

When an epidemic strikes, it attacks both the rich and the poor alike. Living in HongKong during the Corona Virus outbreak has opened my mind to the realities in life I took for granted. Experiences I had heard of are now a reality for me living here.

Now Hong Kong is closely connected to China by several bullet trains, flights and ferry services. Wuhan to Hongkong is a crucial rail link. Trains from and passing through Wuhan were running till Jan 23rd 2020 carrying with it several passengers who may have unknowingly brought the virus.

HongKong has reported 36 confirmed cases with only one death so far(Feb 10th 2020). The recent instances identified had no connection with China or Wuhan, prompting that there may be others who are infected by local transmission. The government, to avoid the spread of the virus, has declared that schools and colleges be closed till Mar 2nd 2020 with online classes and students being given assignments to do at home . As of now, many offices, including government establishments, are working with the majority of staff working from home.

Memories of the SARS epidemic are still fresh in peoples mind. We can see people taking care of themselves with masks and sanitizers. Unfortunately, masks have run out in HK. We had to buy ten masks for HKD 150, which is about USD 20, each mask is USD 2. The cost of masks is way beyond the means of the poor. One of my friend’s conviction of sharing her masks with the poor, who do not have them has prompted me to think of what I would do in a similar situation.

My dad was a doctor working in the rural villages in Tamil Nadu, India. We lived in a hospital campus, which was 25 KM from the nearest town and 150 Km from the nearest City. This meant supplies were got only when we went to town or the City. Cuts & bruises were a part of life, growing up in a carefree safety net free world those days. I had also accompanied my dad when he went on medical missions to interior villages.

There were times supplies were over, and treatment had to be administered. My dad and his team would come up with alternatives. Boiling instruments or pressure cooking them were methods they used. Using instruments and linen, boiled, meant that only viruses, bacteria or germs that can withstand 100 degrees centigrade could be found. Pressure cooking these killed more germs as the temperature is higher with additional pressure. Most of the instruments, including cloth masks, were reused with boiling and pressure cooking.

Now, why can’t I use thick cotton or woollen scarf as a mask. Corona Virus is said to be transmitted by the water droplets produced by those infected. It can reach our body when we are in the direction of their sneeze, or we touch articles that were in the way of their sneeze and accidentally touched our eyes and face. A thick scarf would prevent my sneeze from infecting others or being infected with others’ sneeze.

Most masks are disposable, and we feel safe when the mask is thrown away in the trash just as we reach home. Disposing of a scarf after every use is not practical. So how can I be sure I am not carrying the virus home. A safe way would be to remove the scarfs and boil/ pressure cook them for five to ten minutes and drying them.

Will I be doing enough… I am not sure, but I know that this is the best I can do to take care of my self. Personally, I feel comfortable, reusing boiled/ pressure cooked scarfs instead of reusing disposable masks or going out without a mask.

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