Warning: This post was published more than 12 years ago.
I keep old posts on the site because sometimes it's interesting to read old content. Not everything that is old is bad. Also, I think people might be interested to track how my views have changed over time: for example, how my strident teenage views have mellowed and matured!
But given the age of this post, please bear in mind:
- My views might have changed in the 12 years since I wrote this post.
- This post might use language in ways which I would now consider inappropriate or offensive.
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Many thanks for your understanding.
Nguyen Thi Ngoan grasps the surgical mask closer to her mouth, stifling a sob. In a nearby hospital bed, behind a door marked ‘quarantine’, her younger brother lies prostrate, his feet curled up in agony as he struggles for breath. The only thing keeping him alive is the hose leading from his mouth to a ventilator.
‘The doctors told us he had bird flu on Friday,’ Thi said yesterday. ‘We are really scared because we know it is a very serious disease. He has pains in his chest and his back. Every now and then he asks me to give him a massage. We are praying he will recover.’
Unfortunately, doctors in Hanoi’s tropical diseases institute do not expect Sy Tuan, 21 – the eighteenth person to be infected with the deadly bird flu virus in Vietnam this year – to live through the weekend.
That is not the worst of it, however. In the bed beside him, observing his death throes, lies his 14-year-old sister, Nhung. The day after he was transferred to Hanoi from a hospital near their home in Thaih Binh province, 100 miles south-east of the capital, she succumbed to a high fever and has joined him in quarantine.
Now imagine this millions of times over. Only the hospital services won’t be able to cope, so people will be dying at home, struggling in agony for their last breaths without the aid of a ventilator.
It’s a horrific image, but if (when?) the next bird ‘flu pandemic hits, it could well become reality. And it’s looking increasingly likely that it may happen sooner rather than later.