China at most risk to Ebola, report says | Inquirer Opinion

China at most risk to Ebola, report says

/ 12:06 AM October 20, 2014

It’s only a matter of time before the deadly Ebola virus disease infects China, and the Philippines had better be prepared. China has been identified as the first Asian country most likely to be hit by this fearsome disease that has no known cure and is 90 percent fatal at its worst.

The Ebola scare currently gripping the world is being fueled by incessant news of new Ebola infections outside the Ebola epicenter countries of Liberia, Sierra Leone and Guinea. Researchers at the Laboratory for the Modeling of Biological and Socio-Technical Systems at Northeastern University in Boston, recently came out with a report about which countries are the most at risk from Ebola by the end of October. Unsurprisingly, China has the highest likelihood of becoming the first Asian country to be hit by an Ebola outbreak in October. The Northeastern University study said there’s a 20-percent to 25-percent chance China will report its first Ebola case within the month—if it doesn’t have one already, except that it is keeping it under wraps.


India is the only other Asian country on the list, and it ranks below China.

There is, however, every reason to believe China might not report an Ebola outbreak immediately. Remember SARS or the severe acute respiratory syndrome? China at first denied, then covered up the 2003 SARS epidemic that ultimately infected over 7,200 persons and caused 775 deaths, almost all of them in China.


Reports say China is completely unprepared for an Ebola outbreak. It hasn’t even built a single maximum containment laboratory, or a BSL-4 facility, to handle highly dangerous pathogens such as the Ebola virus.

BSL or biosafety level is a level of the biocontainment precautions required to isolate dangerous biological agents in an enclosed facility. BSL-4 is the highest level. BSL-4 is required for work with dangerous pathogens that cause severe-to-fatal diseases in humans, such as Ebola, for which vaccines or other treatments are not available.

China has learned nothing from the deadly SARS outbreak 11 long years ago.

One reason for China’s being the Asian country at highest risk from Ebola is that it has 20,000 of its citizens either working at or residing in Sierra Leone, Liberia, and Guinea.

News reports from these three countries spoke of the panicked evacuation of huge numbers of Chinese when the Ebola outbreak began to spiral out of control in the past few months. These returning Chinese have since gone home to China but, surprisingly, there have been no reports of Ebola infections among them.

A Liberian newspaper reported that scores of Chinese-owned businesses and stores in

Monrovia, the capital, closed during the last two weeks of August. But large Chinese firms doing business in Liberia haven’t pulled out, but there have been no reports as to what they’re doing to prevent Ebola infecting their employees. Among these firms are the China Henan International Cooperation Group, a state-owned construction company, and China Chongqing International Construction Corp.


China, which is Africa’s largest investor, is doing little to protect the Africans it exploits with its mercantilist policies. China pledged only $37 million to fight Ebola only in Sierra Leone this September. It’s a paltry sum compared to the $175 million given by the United States.

The United States is leading the world in the fight against Ebola in West Africa. Soldiers from the US Army are on the ground in Liberia, building expeditionary clinics for aid workers, multiple Ebola treatment units and a school for training Liberian medical health workers. The United States has committed 4,000 of its soldiers to help in the fight against Ebola in West Africa. China, on the other hand, has only about 170 medical personnel in Sierra Leone.

One reason the Chinese are focusing on Sierra Leone is because in August, several Chinese medical workers were found to have contracted Ebola in this country, said the Agence France-Presse. These infected Chinese have since gone home to China, but China has given no word on the fate of these Ebola victims. A cover-up of an Ebola outbreak now will do China a lot more harm than good.

There’s sufficient reason to believe Ebola is now in China but, given its past history of denials, China will only admit this when the Ebola outbreak has gotten out of hand.

If this happens, the Philippines might want to consider tighter controls on Chinese tourists.


Art Villasanta is a historian of the Korean War and a keen student of military history. His military websites are at and

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