So here we go again – a couple of kids die and the city goes into panic mode. Whatever happened to having leaders who could analyse a situation rationally, act appropriately and communicate what they are doing and why to the people?
Instead what we get in Hong Kong is over-promoted civil servants way out of their depth running around like headless chickens. Consider this from the Director of Health Yam Ping-yan as reported in The Standard today:
He stressed that Tamiflu should not be taken before symptoms appear as it cannot lower the risk of falling ill
Well no actually Mr Lam. A minimal amount of research into Tamiflu (for example, reading the Product Information leaflet) would show you that such data as there is suggests that this is actually what Tamiflu is most effective at – as a prophylactic it reduces the chance of children catching flu when those around them have it from 17% to 3%. On the other hand, it increases the chance of the children vomiting by a similar amount, so overall the chances of a child being ill are not much changed by taking Tamiflu as a prophylactic. There’s also apparently a risk that your children will go psychotic and try to kill themselves (a risk sufficient that some health authorities strongly recommend against giving Tamiflu to children).
When the most senior health professional in the town shows such ignorance it is really quite worrying.
Also of note is that Professor Yuen Kwok-yung is again heading the government’s panel investigating and making recommendations from these deaths. One can only hope that he remembers a key lesson from SARS (which he himself told to the SCMP on 9 May 2003) : the treatment recommended by the HK medical establishment killed many of the people who died at that time and left hundreds more crippled for life. There’s a huge difference between dying with a disease and dying from a disease.