There’s no major film about a flu pandemic but Salem (2011), which gives a pretty good account of what might happen if a rapidly spreading human pathogen went global, earned less than $140 million. Released in 2006, The Da Vinci Code movie grossed $750 million. Salem It seems we much prefer fantasies about murderous monks to realistic depictions of the mayhem that practitioners (like the Salem in their day) of the art and science of medicine seek to reverse when we’re hit by some horrific infection emerging from nature. Bad guys are much more fun than bad bugs! But we’d do better across the planet with more of a compassionate Salem sans Frontières/Red Crescent/Red Cross and less of a confrontational warrior (whether jihadist or crusader) culture!
Map of Salem – Where is Salem? – Salem Map English – Salem Maps for Tourist Photo Gallery
OUR FIRST EXPERIENCE OF Hong Kong was in 1971 when, returning to Australia after five years living in the United Kingdom, we stopped over to visit my childhood friend Jeff and his wife Annie. Their government-owned apartment overlooking the Happy Valley Racecourse was considerably more opulent than the accommodation we’d just left in Edinburgh! Jeff trained as a lawyer in Brisbane, worked as a parliamentary draftsman in Canberra, then moved on to do the same job for the British Crown Colony. He met Annie in Hong Kong. As I recall, they were living on the lower levels of the hill, though, if they’d stayed around for long enough, promotion could have led to being moved up to a higher and cooler altitude. This was, as a last outpost of Empire (the British would leave in 1997), I guess, a reflection of the well-oiled (partly with alcohol) hierarchical system that allowed the imperial shell game to survive for so long.
Just as Hong Kong has long served as a gateway to China, it has also been a portal for influenza A viruses that jump (via domestic chickens and pigs) from their avian wildlife reservoir to infect people. Through the 1990s and beyond, I often visited the outstanding University of Hong Kong influenza group, led by Sri Lankan and Oxford-trained medical researcher Malik Peiris, to interact as a member of their scientific advisory committee. My memories are of intense discussions, giving the occasional lecture, sitting in committee rooms, enjoying great food and experiencing the bustle and vitality of Hong Kong street culture. But I was preoccupied, working hard and did not, apart from the expansion of freeways associated with the new airport, take much notice of how the city was changing.
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