There is little doubt SARS is a dangerous disease, but at this stage it may be blown out of proportion. As popular Hong Kong journalist Nury Vittachi was reminding residents there last week, more than 99 percent of Hong Kong’s population is free of SARS, and the survival rate for those with the disease is above 90 percent.
By comparison to other plagues, SARS at this point is pretty minor. Around the world, 42 million people are living with AIDS. Last year there were 5 million new cases and 3.1 million deaths. In sub-Saharan Africa there are 29.4 million cases of AIDS, and many of those are infected with tuberculosis.
Access to clean water is absolutely crucial to preventing diseases such as hepatitis and childhood diarrhea. According to the UN, one-fifth of the planet’s more than 6 billion people lack safe water.
Additional reporting: Phoebe St John and Joanna Khenkine
This article from the Village Voice Archive was posted on April 15, 2003