The SARS Effect

SARS has taken its toll on tourism, with in-denial China being hit hard, and many other Asian countries not far behind. Cathay Pacific, one of the world’s best airlines, may ground its entire fleet for a month.

Vietnam has shown, however, that the virus can be contained, and trips to Toronto haven’t been cancelled in droves. (One airline was even offering free flights there from New York if you booked last week.)

Gerald N. Grob, author of The Deadly Truth, the History of Disease in America noted in an NPR interview that the media’s apparent tendency to blow things out of proportion is a natural outcome of their role. They are constantly looking for the new, the novel, the surprising. When 100 people a day die in car wrecks each day, or several times that many die from heart disease, that’s not news. But when someone contracts some bizarre disease that nobody had heard of before, it makes the front page.

Likewise, the World Health Organization won’t tell you to stay out of downtown Detroit because of shootings or to stay out of Bangkok because of horrendous pollution, but they will tell you to stay out of Toronto because a few people have contracted SARS. Just remember that the number of people who have died worldwide from SARS is equal to the number that die in four average days of car wrecks in the US alone. Park the car and pack your bags…

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