Swine Flu Comes to China

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In recent weeks it has appeared that China’s deadly experience with SARS has helped ready the country for the arrival of swine flu. Last week A/H1N1 arrived on Chinese soil. After failing to diagnose the 25-year-old Mexican man who carried the virus upon his arrival in Shanghai, health inspectors finally diagnosed him after a flight to Hong Kong. That touched off a nationwide search for travelers who flew with the infected man. Now more than 100 have been put in quarantine.

That’s a worthy response. But now it seems like the government is not just targeting travelers who might have been exposed to A/H1N1, but anyone coming from Mexico. The Mexican embassy says that now 70 of its citizens have been quarantined around China. (The Wall Street Journal has a detailed story on China’s response over the weekend.) They include many who arrived on flights other than AeroMexico flight 098, which brought the man to Shanghai last week, or his China Eastern flight to Hong Kong. Save for the initial patient, none have shown symptoms of the flu, the Mexican embassy says. The Chinese Foreign Ministry denies the country is discriminating against Mexican travelers. For now though the Mexican ambassador to China still hasn’t been able to visit 10 Mexicans quarantined in the Guomen Hotel in suburban Beijing. China’s experience in fighting communicable diseases may still prove useful, but wasn’t one of the key lessons of SARS to not panic?