Pride, Disease, Information, and You

Delaying disease response, whether intentional or not, is hardly a new occurrence, but it is a risky one. Half the battle of disease treatment is responding to an outbreak quickly enough.

Photo by Jack Scott

Delaying disease response, whether intentional or not, is hardly a new occurrence, but it is a risky one. Half the battle of disease treatment is responding to an outbreak quickly enough.

Back in 2003, the People’s Republic of China was accused of undercounting severe acute respiratory syndrome (SARS) cases in Beijing military hospitals and being slow to deal with the growing epidemic. Both of these could be the primary reasons of the worldwide spread of SARS. However, China’s reaction to a major, life-threatening disease is not unique. The Saudi Arabian government released little information about MERS during the early months of the outbreak and the disease has subsequently spread to Western Europe and parts of the Middle East. Both of these incidents are shining examples of how not to treat a growing epidemic, and how a nation’s pride has come before its safety, with devastating consequences.

October 2013 saw a dangerous combination of recent events that could have had severe outcomes. The United States government shutdown impeded the CDC’s ability to track the spread of diseases such as MERS. Also in October, the Hajj, the annual Islamic pilgrimage to the city of Mecca in Saudi Arabia, occurred. This lead to the fear of a pilgrim spreading MERS and returning to his or her country with the disease, which luckily never happened. This year, fewer people attended the Hajj than last year, which is likely due to the fear over MERS. This all could have been avoided if Saudi Arabia had worked with the international community sooner.

In late 2002 and early 2003, the Chinese Government purposefully delayed response to SARS, undercounted the number of cases at Beijing Military Hospitals, and refused requests of information from the World Health Organization (WHO). Furthermore, when China finally did allow WHO officials to investigate SARS within China, they found major issues with Chinese healthcare, such as communication inadequacies, restricting government regulations, and large amounts of decentralization.

I understand that an outbreak of a disease within your country’s borders is embarrassing, but the health and safety of human beings comes before pride. When it comes to illness, suppressing information and delaying response is an unacceptable behavior for any government. Governments do exist to protect its citizens and ideals from invaders, sickness, and disease, correct?

In both cases, governments have attempted to slow or hide the spread of disease information, which was likely the primary factor for why they spread as far as they did. In both cases, the situation obviously would have been less severe if the governments of Saudi Arabia and the People’s Republic of China had acted quicker and allowed international officials into their nations. While a nation’s pride and reputation for health is important, its international integrity and safety of its people remain a greater priority, no matter the situation or scenario.


Works Sited:

Heymann, David, and Guénaël Rodier. “Global Surveillance, National Surveillance, and SARS.” Medscape. N.p., 2 Oct 2004. Web. 15 Nov 2013. <>.

Katz, Andrew. “As the Hajj Unfolds in Saudi Arabia, A Deep Look Inside the Battle   Against MERS.” Time. N.p., 16 Oct 2013. Web. 15 Nov 2013. <>.

Edwards, Anna. “Hajj pilgrimage could cause deadly Mers virus outbreak as millions gather for Islamic event where camels are slaughtered… a possible cause of the disease.” Mail Online. N.p., 11 Oct 2013. Web. 15 Nov 2013. < 2454273/Revealed-How-Hajj-pilgrimage-cause-outbreak-deadly-Mers-virus-million-gather Islamic-event-hundreds-camels-slaughtered-possible-cause disease.html ITO=1490&ns_mchannel=rss&ns_campaign=1490>.