China, Hong Kong?and even Toronto?are infested with cases of SARS and it’s spreading rapidly. We know it originated in Asia, so why is Japan free from the disease? Experts says it’s all due to handwashing. Japanese children are nagged into washing their hands and gargling after meals from the time they enter elementary school, and the habit persists into adulthood. Infectious disease expert Hiroko Sagara says, “I think a lot of people still do wash their hands.”

Officials from the World Health Organization are visiting military hospitals in Beijing to check for unreported cases of SARS. There are rumors that these hospitals have unreported cases, which would bring the total of SARS cases in China, where the disease originated, even higher. In China, the military is very secretive. Chinese surgeon Dr. Jiang Yanyong says military hospitals are hiding more than 100 cases.

In Hong Kong, the rate of death is increasing: more people have died of SARS there in the last 24 hours than on any day since the outbreak started. In a recent, tragic case of SARS in Hong Kong, a pregnant woman died, but doctors were able to save her baby. It’s not known if the infant has SARS or if the disease can be transmitted from a mother to her unborn child.

Simon Parry, of the South China Morning Post, says, “One thing that is worrying people is that the victims seem to be getting increasingly young. There is a feeling that this is potentially slipping out of control. If the numbers keep rising there could be a situation where the hospitals just could not cope.”

Wash your hands and keep away from crowds?stay home with a good book. This is one of our all-time favorite adventures.

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