Thu, 10 Apr 2003

`What is SARS? I've never heard of it'

Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS) can affect anyone, regardless of their nationality, gender, age or social status. But people on the street told The Jakarta Post they were not scared at all and even believed that SARS could only affect the rich.

Suhadi, 59, is a street sweeper who lives in Tomang, West Jakarta, with his wife and three children:

What is SARS? I have never heard of it. I have no idea about that kind of illness. Actually, medical terminologies now sound very complicated and weird to my ears.

Besides, the kind of ailments nowadays vary greatly. Perhaps it is because modern food almost always contains chemical substances to preserve the food.

Well, if it's like influenza I don't need to worry about it. If it deals with respiratory problems, a massage would help I guess. Because I always do that and it works.

I don't know what a virus is either. I wonder if there is a Javanese word for it because I'm not familiar with that word at all. Well, I suppose perhaps it's like a germ, or something like that, which is contagious.

I have learned traditional healing from my ancestors and have not needed to take medicine from doctors. In my opinion the best thing to do is to drink red ginger because it is very hot and it would probably kill the bug.

Drinking a very bitter traditional herbal concoction would also help eradicate the illness, I'm sure. That's the easiest way to make our body more resistant to any ailment.

In addition to the above, I myself would tackle the ailment by thinking positively. I mean to say that we should cleanse our heart and mind of hatred and envy. Such negative feelings will surely worsen the physical condition. That's the most efficacious way to prevent any illness attacking our body.

Aning, 23, is an employee at a private company in Ciracas, East Jakarta. She resides in Semper, North Jakarta, with some relatives:

Honestly speaking, I'm not worried about the possible threat of SARS because I work in a healthy environment.

I don't need to take special precautions. I think the threat is still far away from people's lives here.

The most important thing is to stay in a healthy condition, take more vitamins and avoid getting over tired. However, I don't think there is any urgency about it.

The government, in my opinion, has been slow to anticipate the threat.

But, I don't blame the government because the respiratory ailment is not yet a very serious threat to the nation.

Ali, 27, is a sidewalk vendor who sells used books and magazines in Taman Anggrek, West Jakarta. He resides nearby with his fellow vendors. His wife lives in Bogor, West Java:

As a matter of fact, I don't worry about it because I don't know exactly what kind of syndrome it is. The terminology is quite strange to me.

The low-income people like me are not familiar with that respiratory syndrome at all. That illness is still very far from the lives of the poor.

It would be different if it were malaria. Everybody would know about it and would be very concerned about the outbreak. That illness is more common among the poor compared to SARS, I reckon.

Besides, the outbreak originated from neighboring countries that are far from our country. So, why should we worry about it?

The hardest thing for poor people like me is how to get by. Thinking about survival is much more important than worrying about the disease.

Well, we haven't made any preparations. We are accustomed to struggling hard. It means that we have already developed immunity to such a strange ailment. So, we don't need to wear a mask to cover our nose or face. The poor are immune.

-- Leo Wahyudi S