Saturday, July 04, 2009

tvnewswatch quarantined in H1N1 scare

Last weekend writers for tvnewswatch found themselves in quarantine and being tested for swine flu after showing flu like symptoms. Besides being outside the 7 day quarantine period, imposed on new arrivals from abroad, Chinese authorities deemed it necessary to carry out tests.

But the arrival of two ambulances with medical staff wearing staff masks and a driver wearing a full NBC suit concerned many local residents. It is not clear why the taking of blood samples could not be done in situ, but further concern was raised as the doctors took away mask wearing foreigners who had been living in their midst. With National Day approaching some were worried the entire block might be quarantined.

Tests were carried out at one of Beijing's hospitals, including blood and saliva. However after several hours waiting for the results we were told we may have to stay overnight.

Food was supplied, but at a small cost to the patient. But attempting to choose from a menu written entirely Chinese proved a little daunting, though one of the tvnewswatch team does read the language. For many westerners finding themselves caught up in quarantine with such a menu, there would be some difficulties. The quality of the food was adequate; not haute cuisine, but neither was it inedible. One dish consisted of bamboo shoots cooked with shiitake mushrooms while others consisted of Chinese cabbage and black fungi.

What was more uncomfortable was the long wait for the results as time ticked slowly away towards Monday. The long wait increased the nervousness amongst the community amongst whom we had been living this past week. There were already fears the whole residential block may have to be quarantined. This was despite reassurances that the tests were precautionary.

It's not unusual to contract a cold or flu when being in a new climate. But with heightened fears over the threat of A/H1N1, the authorities in China are taking no chances. What cannot be criticised is there general efficiency. After what felt like eternity, but in fact was less than 6 hours the tests were returned. The result was negative as regards swine flu and pointed to a bacterial infection in the throat according to doctors.

Forms and certificates were stamped and issued before everyone was discharged. Then came the phone calls necessary to inform the community leaders and others that the situation was OK. "That'll be something you will never forget," said a member of staff at where one of tvnewswatch's team was to begin work on Monday. It sure wasn't, but one was also not looking forward to less then 6 hours sleep before heading to work in central Beijing. The positive note is that everyone here is H1N1 free and except for being very hot due to the weather, we're all quite comfortable.

Authorities however continue to take the threat of swine flu very seriously. Back in the UK over 7,000 people have contracted the virus and as far as tvnewswatch understands, 3 people have died. In China the numbers have barely topped 800 with one death reported so far. The woman from Zhejiang province, who was suffering from the effects of the A/H1N1 virus, is not thought to have died from the disease. It is believed she was killed after sustaining injuries in a fall whilst visiting the toilet.

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