As others see it

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The Independent Online
CONVENTIONAL wisdom would not have us choose between the plague and cholera, and conventional wisdom is right. Today both these legendary scourges can be easily controlled: simple anti- biotics for one, elementary rehydration techniques for the other. That is why the cordon sanitaire which is being drawn around India is - at the very least - premature: hysteria is triumphing over medical rationalism . . .

How many French people, even those with a decent education, had heard of Surat a week ago? Yet the city's recent growth has put it well on the way to gianthood . . . Surat is typical of a Third World where already precarious urban systems are plugging into the world economy. Public health experts have long been worried by this combination, which encourages an epidemic's spread as much as its birth.

The fact that their sanitary conditions are usually inadequate has made big cities in the Third World easy targets for the recent resurgence of epidemics. The Aids pandemic is particularly illuminating: though its origins are supposedly in rural Africa, it was from the cities of that continent that Aids began to spread to the West and then the rest of the world. But if developed countries have to some extent managed to contain the spread of Aids through their lands, this is not the case elsewhere. Asia, the last to be affected, is now paying the heaviest price. Modern scourges may be unequally spread, but they are none the less shared. 'One World,' they say, for better - and for worse.

Editorial in 'Liberation', left-wing French daily