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Russia is taking this seriously, so should we!

Joanne Ikeda, co-founder, Center for Weight and Health | October 26, 2009

My husband and I just returned from a trip to Russia.  When our plane arrived in Moscow,  we had to wait for a public health official to give her approval before we were allowed to deboard the plane.  She came aboard and used an instrument that took one’s temperatures when it was aimed at one’s forehead.  She checked out every passenger.   We were told that this was to prevent anyone who had the flu from entering the country.  Unfortunately, an 8 year old girl was running a fever.  I’m not quite sure what the Russians decided to do about her as the rest of us were let off the plane.   I know that an elementary school student in the Bay area has just died from H1N1.  How sad.  No one expects their child to die of the flu.  My heart goes out to her parents.

Comments to “Russia is taking this seriously, so should we!

  1. I’m from Ukraine. I write on the my site about health in Ukraine.
    Our schools have been closed and all public events banned for a three-week period.
    Health ministry officials admitted at least four of 30 deaths in western Ukraine since mid-October which had been attributed to flu and pneumonia, were in fact caused by the H1N1 strain, commonly known as swine flu.

  2. Ikeda, why does the technology that Russian health official used seem incredibly alien? When will the United States invest in functioning technology, unlike the failing air blowing/bomb sniffing machines?

    I support large countries, such as Russia and China practicing these forms of containment. After landing in Germany this summer all travelers were asked to fill out a “well being” survey and were briefly looked by white-robed and masked officials at the door of the plane.

    It’s surprising that the United States always seems to be last in containing or solving an issue, despite being first to sound alarms.

  3. Hi Lynn, Wow, sounds like the Chinese are really taking this seriously. We didn’t encounter any efforts to contain H1N1 in Russia other than the screening on the airplace in Moscow.

  4. I just returned from China, where very strict measures have been taken and my temperature was taken numerous times in hotels and at public events. Frankly, it makes you scared to admit you feel ill, or to seek medicine or medical attention for anything because you might wind up being quarantined. If someone near you coughs on the plane you are desperate to move to a different seat. Of course we want to count on people to behave in an ethical and responsible way, but I am trying to illustrate some of the potential effects of “very strict precautions” on people’s thinking. As an obvious foreigner, I worried that people might be frightened of me, and that I would automatically be blamed if flu showed up nearby during my visit. What if a child in a household I visited got the flu? Even if I never had H1N1 I would always feel horrible. Fortunately, in Beijing people seem to be pretty calm about it these days and my fears were completely unwarranted. I had a fantastic visit and there is no reason not to go to China for a visit if you are flu-free. I had to wonder, if I woke up with a fever on the day of my trip, would the airline refund my ticket???

    Even with all their precautions, they have tens of thousands of cases in China, but certainly you would be much less likely to catch the flu there than here. Even if it becomes widespread in China, their precautions hopefully have slowed things so that many can be vaccinated, and for those that do get it, the health infrastructure can keep up with the numbers.

    In any case, this flu is a useful learning experience for some of the problems the world would face if a dangerous, highly contagious disease evolved, and I hope it will be used that way by the health agencies of the world to think about coordinated plans and policies. SARS, for example, was highly dangerous but not very contagious. H1N1 so far is highly contagious but not very dangerous. The H1N1 experience has clarified for me that a dangerous, highly contagious disease would cause havoc around the world. I can see that fear would probably cause violence and mortality, in addition to the disease itself. Public health officials need to be very cautious about causing fear.

    For myself, I have two daughters in the vulnerable age group, and I figured they would get the flu, and probably sooner would be better than later if the virus was going to mutate. I know there are risks, but counting on the hope of a vaccination, given that they are in school and surrounded by people, seemed unrealistic. They did get the flu, and I am grateful for the message sent by UC to instructors telling them to be considerate of student problems caused by the flu, and to give them options for making up or missing work. It was a great comfort to my daughter who missed a week of classes and was quite miserable, and caused some of her professors to change their attitudes. The other daughter was barely ill, and I gather this is not uncommon.

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