HONG KONG, OCTOBER 25, 2011: Gwyneth Paltrow, Matt Damon, Jude Law and Kate Winslet have had a big impact on Hong Kong and China by the recent release of their movie Contagion.

In case you have not seen it, at the beginning of the picture, business woman Gwyneth Paltrow is attending a business meeting in Hong Kong. At a dinner function, she eats pork chock full of a highly contagious killer virus. She then proceeds to spread the virus by coughing up phlegm at airports, on planes and in the states. Not more than fifteen minutes into the epic, Gwyneth dies and the virus has spread world-wide killing millions.

While the theme of this movie is not really that new (fast moving pandemic with scientists combating the spread), because Hong Kong was featured as the city where the killer virus started from food, the city, and indeed China, have flipped out about Contagion. There is much direct and subtle discussion in the press. The Hong Kong/China leaders are very concerned about any negative impact the movie may have on the world community’s perception of Hong Kong, China and their ability to prevent, contain and deal with virulent communicable diseases.

It is not easy to forget the painful past. Remember:

Doctor Liu Jianlun arriving in February, 2003 in Hong Kong for a wedding. He had flu-like symptoms and, after a day in the city, he was admitted to a local hospital where he died. He was patient zero who died with SARS (severe acute respiratory syndrome). 80% of the Hong Kong SARS victims could trace their infection to Doctor Liu. The SARS virus made thousands ill and claimed 800+ lives, the majority of which lived in Hong Kong or mainland China.

In 2003-2004, China appears to have been the source of the avian flu influenza which resulted in 400+ human deaths, numerous sick individuals and the exterminations of millions of poultry.

Hong Kong is one of world’s leading international financial centers. It is also draws a significant number of tourists and businesses seeking to do business in, among others, the Pearl River area. Hong Kong is one of the most densely populated areas of the world with 7+ million people packed into a postage stamp sized living area with about 45,000+ people every year immigrating from mainland China. Surprisingly, Hong Kong life expectancies are one of the highest in the world with males at 79+ years of age and females at 84+, second only to world leader Japan.

With its recent experiences in the uncontrolled spread of the viruses SARS, H5N1, H1NI, its not great for business or tourism to have a blockbuster movie coming out to reinforce the misimpression that Hong Kong and, by implication, mainland China are the world’s spectacular breeding grounds for doomsday viruses.

While Hong Kong/China health officials here and experts worldwide have instituted significant reforms to prevent, detect and respond to pandemic public health challenges, the jury is still out as to how effective the reforms will be in the future. Lets hope they work.

Given the history, you can see why the movie Contagion hits a very sensitive Hong Kong and China nerve.

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