China’s authoritarianism has apparently helped the country keep a lid on the global H1N1 pandemic. Similarly populated India has experienced nearly 17 times as many deaths from the disease. The United States, with less than a quarter of China’s population, has recorded about 133 times as many deaths.

That’s obviously a comparison of three very different countries, but there should be no doubt after the SARS debacle that China is a densely populated hub of international travel perfectly capable of spreading disease.

That Beijing has managed to keep things mostly under control suggests that its draconian measures — which have included the quarantine of thousands of visiting foreigners at the slightest provocation — are working.

Another step that could help, as The New York Times reports, is the country’s determination to develop a vaccine as quickly as possible. That and the educational and unintentionally humorous use of red banners. — PZS

New York Times:

Chinese and Western officials say Chinese leaders put in place a comprehensive plan for a pandemic outbreak after the disastrous experience of SARS. This includes, at least in the first stages, some of the stringent quarantine measures of the SARS era, but also emphasizes educating the population about the disease: A red banner hanging from the balcony of a rural school building here in Guangdong Province says: “H1N1 flu is preventable, controllable and curable, and not terrifying.”

The government was so anxious to stay ahead of H1N1 that officials decided in June to start developing a vaccine even though testing kits for measuring the dosage of the agent in the experimental vaccines had not arrived from the W.H.O., said Zhao Kai, a virologist who advises the government. It was an unusual step, but on Sept. 5 China became the first country to declare that it had discovered a vaccine, and by late October it had produced nearly 53 million doses.

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