Letter: Unchecked media spread plague hysteria in West

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The Independent Online
Sir: I write to you as I am concerned about the 'precautions' being taken by this country to prevent the spread of the plague to its shores.

On Friday 30 September I returned from Bombay on an Air India flight. News of the growing plague epidemic across the Indian subcontinent and the international concern over the threat of the infection spreading abroad had reached us a few days earlier. When we arrived at Bombay airport the departure board made this clear: more than half the flights were cancelled.

There was no mention of the plague to us until we were on our final approach to Heathrow. Then we were told we would have to wait on the tarmac until the plane was cleared by the London health authorities.

After the plane's interior had been sprayed with disinfectant, two nurses walked down the aisle asking if anyone had any health problems. I stopped one as I was suffering from a cold and wished to ask about plague symptoms; although we had passed through Surat on 28 September, I was not concerned since the cold had started the previous Monday. I later spoke to the doctor in more detail and was cleared.

While it is important to maintain the air link with India to allow people in and out, it is also important to prevent the disease reaching this country. Other European countries put all disembarking passengers through a rigorous check. This includes questions about their movements in India as well as a physical checks for the symptoms.

I simply hope this country is taking enough precautions; history warns us of the consequences if we do not.

Yours faithfully,

RICHARD M. ALLEN

Durham

1 October

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