Sat, 12 Apr 2003

`Why should we be panicking about SARS?'

The government said that there had been a number of suspected Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS) cases here, but none of them had been confirmed. Many people, however, told The Jakarta Post that they remain in the dark about the disease and complain about the lack of clear information from the government.

Warta, 26, is bajaj (three-wheeled vehicle) driver who lives in Pulogadung, East Jakarta with his fellow drivers. His wife lives in Tegal, Central Jakarta:

I heard that this respiratory ailment is spreading in the city. Is that right? I constantly hear many people talking about it, but the government has not been informing the public clearly, I think.

Honestly speaking, I'm a bit worried about catching the disease.

But I also believe this disease only affects the "modern people" who always eat processed food with lots of chemical preservatives and additives. So, to prevent it, I think we have to be more selective in choosing our meals. Otherwise, it will be harmful to our health.

In addition, we should have a peaceful heart and mind. Therefore I'm trying to steer clear of negative thoughts because it will help make our life more peaceful and promote better blood circulation. That makes our body healthy, I'm sure.

For more concrete precautions, I will be careful about the food I eat in addition to staying in generally good health. Besides, I will try to stay away from hotels and hospitals since those places are prone to the infection.

Actually, I have learned about massage as a means to heal people. But, in the case of a viral ailment, I have no idea. I worry about it despite the low probability of being infected.

Yose, 31, is businessman and father of one daughter. He resides in Rawamangun, East Jakarta:

Frankly I don't feel bothered much by the threat of the ailment. We have all kinds of illnesses in our daily life here and each can possibly infect us.

But, in a way I feel annoyed by the fact that the government does not seem to be transparent in informing us of the disease in this country.

If the government was more transparent, the public would seriously consider the precautions in anticipation of the contagious disease. I think the government stance is still confusing the public.

I'm afraid that certain people will profit from the situation through the skyrocketing costs of surgical masks. I haven't bought any masks yet for my family, because I'm waiting for the government to clearly disclose the real facts about SARS.

Nevertheless, for the time being, I will tell my family not to go out in public places, including shopping centers or hospitals and we will keep our general health up. Otherwise, I myself will be prone to infection since I was recently hospitalized with a nervous system problem.

Suhar, 41, works in a shopping center in Sunter, North Jakarta. He resides in Cempaka Baru, Central Jakarta with his wife and only son:

I think the government has been lacking in its public campaign to educate people about SARS. It seems they are not being transparent about the number of suspected SARS patients.

However, I wonder why we should worry about such a contagious disease like SARS. I guess it's similar to the flu which means that everybody is prone to it. So why should we worry so much about it?

I heard that the quarantine area is in the hospital near here. Well, I'm not saying that I'm immune to the disease but we don't need to be troubled by the threat. We are accustomed to experiencing many kinds of contagious diseases, after all.

I'm a bit skeptical about the whole issue, though. I think this virus must have been deliberately created by certain people with certain vested interests.

They spread the virus in an attempt to sell the anti-viral medicine that will later cure it. So, it might be a business trick to promote new medicine. I think everything is possible now and it could have happened like that, at least that's what I am predicting.

Anyway, as a precaution, I would rather eat a lot and take more herbal remedies to keep my body fit and immune to all diseases. I will also exercise more.

-- Leo Wahyudi S