|The story below is originally published on Mainichi Daily News by Mainichi Shinbun (http://mdn.mainichi.jp).|
|They admitted inventing its kinky features, or rather deliberately mistranslating them from the original gossip magazine.|
|In fact, this is far from the general Japanese' behavior or sense of worth.|
Fetid conditions may make summer Olympics a springboard for spreading sickness 2008,01,26
Shukan Jitsuwa (2/7) By Masuo Kamiyama
Fans of thriller fiction have probably read novels in which an evildoer aspires to terrorize the world by introducing a biological weapon into a packed sports stadium.
The spectators then depart and board planes before any symptoms appear, resulting in a virus being spread to their fellow passengers: and ultimately setting off a massive epidemic spreading to the far corners of the globe.
Recent events have shown that such scenarios are by no means the stuff of thriller fiction.
Now read this: "Overseas Chinese will be coming to Beijing from all over the world," Masahiro Miyazaki, a well-known author and commentator on international affairs, remarks in Shukan Jitsuwa (2/7).
"Many of them won't be accommodated in tourist hotels, but will sleep 15 to a room in flophouses costing as little as 200 Japanese yen a night.
Or else they'll be put up in the unsanitary homes of relatives.
They'll serve as hosts for all kinds of noxious germs, which they might carry back to their home countries."
The worldwide outbreak of SARS (severe acute respiratory syndrome) in 2002-2003, which was believed to have originated from unsanitary food markets in southern China, was not, of course, a biological weapon.
But due to poor public health practices and efforts by the Chinese Health Ministry to suppress reports of the initial outbreaks, SARS soon spread into neighboring Hong Kong, and from there to Southeast Asia.
It then leaped the Pacific to Canada.
By the time the epidemic ended some 8,000 people were infected, of which 775 died -- evidence of how quickly a lethal pathogen could spread before medical teams could identify it and mount effective countermeasures.
The SARS epidemic vanished almost as rapidly as it emerged, but soon afterwards physicians began warning of another scary disease -- avian influenza -- that's been killing birds by the tens of thousands.
Since it's capable of killing humans as well, researchers are in a frantic race to perfect a vaccine before human-to-human transmission becomes endemic.
Still, all it takes for a catastrophe to occur is the right combination of circumstances, which seem to pop up frequently in China.
On January 10, a case was reported of human-to-human transmission of avian flu in a Beijing family, resulting in a boy's death.
While this is no more than speculation, the media has widely reported that should an avian flu pandemic occur in Japan, with its high population density, several hundred thousand people might die before it is contained.
If only new and exotic diseases were the sole concern!
But much more basic factors, like hygiene and sanitation, still can and do spread illnesses as well.
Shukan Jitsuwa notes that in preparation for the Olympics, which will begin on August 8, a number of sports contingents from the U.K., Italy, Poland, Sweden and other countries have announced that their athletes will train at camps in Japan.
The reason, the magazine says, is that public sanitation is still poor in rural parts of China.
"Big cities like Beijing and Shanghai, where many foreigners visit, are fairly clean, but in places the foreigners don't see, it's terrible," says a Japanese man who spent time as an exchange student in China.
"You can find heaps of uncovered rubbish piled two or three meters high, and when it rains, the stuff dissolves and runs off in all directions.
"Except perhaps for the highest-class restaurants, the kitchens tend to be filthy," the man adds.
"They're enough to make even Chinese want to throw up."
After devoting a paragraph to Beijing's notorious smog and its lack of safe drinking water -- a potential source of type-B hepatitis -- Shukan Jitsuwa warns visitors against rabies.
Yes, it's still a concern: rabies is 100 percent fatal unless promptly treated and about 2,500 people in China die from it every year, so dogs are to be avoided at all costs.
"Rabies has been present in China since ancient times," notes Miyazaki.
"But when people raised dogs for meat it wasn't much of a problem.
More recently, however, they've been keeping them as house pets, which has made it more dangerous.
The problem is that unethical dog breeders raise the animals in abysmal conditions.
So rabies has become endemic."
Visitors to the upcoming Olympiad, which will run for 17 days beginning from August 8, will also need to be on their guard against AIDS.
A 2007 report issued by the Chinese government estimated the number of HIV carriers at 700,000. The most likely method of contagion would be between Japanese male tourists and local prostitutes, who are said to number 20 million nationwide.
Miyazaki's advice for those who attend the games is, "For high-class hotels, maintaining quality is a matter of face.
Stay and take your meals in these places and you'll probably be all right."
"The slogan of the Beijing Olympic Committee is 'One World, One Dream,'" Shukan Jitsuwa observes, adding that unless better health precautions are taken, when the world wakes up from this "dream," it might find itself confronting a host of genuine medical nightmares.
(By Masuo Kamiyama, contributing writer)