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Unmasking the reality
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It is a danger signal that the masks in Chengdu sold out soon after the first case of A (H1N1) flu was confirmed. This is a warning that we should pay more attention to the stockpile of epidemic prevention materials, says an article in Modern Express. Excerpt:

After the mainland's first case of A (H1N1) flu was confirmed in Chengdu, this city has become a "storm center" on the issue of preventive measures. It is reported that the Chengdu Infectious Disease Hospital, which took charge of the first flu patient, has declined to entertain any "irrelevant visitor" to the hospital, including journalists. Outside, in the streets of Chengdu, citizens rushed to buy masks, which resulted in the masks getting sold out in some local pharmacies.

To take the issue of visitors, although discouraging them is understandable, it would be unwise to bar journalists. Media can be effective in dispelling the public's fear of infectious disease hospitals, and encourage those infected to report to the local hospital by their coverage of the patient's treatment. It is unreasonable to cut off such a favorable channel of communication.

More than this, the masks running out of stock is an issue of greater concern. We should be in a state of full preparedness before the spread of the flu becomes serious. It is crucial that we keep in reserve adequate quantities of material required for epidemic prevention and control, especially the simple but useful mask. The fact that the masks sold out in Chengdu indicates that our preparatory work here leaves a lot to be desired.

The devil is in the detail. It is a long-term and uphill battle to prevent and control A (H1N1) flu. To a large extent, the result of this battle would be determined by the attention we pay to details such as masks, and whether these details can give the public the sense of security and confidence so necessary in this time of crisis.

(China Daily May 15, 2009)

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