- By Dr. Vincent Akimoto
According to ancient Chinese legend, there was a monster named Nián (年) that lives at the bottom of the sea and comes up once a year to feast on humans. The sights and sounds of the traditional New Year’s Lion Dance are based on the knowledge that the monster is afraid of loud noises, fire, and the color red.
During the Lion Dance, the performers scare away the monster by making loud bright noises with firecrackers, drums, plates and empty bowls while wearing colorful red robes. In Chinese culture, the lion symbolizes power, wisdom, and excellence. People perform lion dances at Chinese festivals or big occasions to usher in positive energies and ward off negative influences.
On the eve of the lunar new year, Guam’s island eyes watch anxiously from an ever nearer 2,300 miles away as a viral outbreak in China leads to a rapidly evolving world-wide effort to prevent a global pandemic.
Xi Jinping, the president of the world's largest nation, gravely warned his 1.5 billion countrymen of the "accelerating spread" of the coronavirus , which has now infected nearly 2,700 people, claimed at least 80 lives, and triggered draconian governmental action seeking to contain the virus.
This deadly new Chinese coronavirus infection produces a fever and cough that may progress quickly to a severe pneumonia causing shortness of breath, respiratory failure, and death.
Usually during this time in China, extended families make heroic efforts to come together to celebrate the New Year. Almost 3 billion passenger-journeys have been recorded during this holiday travel season of Chunyun making it the largest annual migration of humans in the world.
This year, travelers to the heart of China have been told to stay home because the Great Wall of China has been closed; Beijing’s Forbidden City has been closed; many important New Year’s temple celebrations have been cancelled; and McDonald’s restaurants in the affected region and Shanghai Disneyland have been shut down indefinitely.
In Wuhan, which is considered the political, economic, financial, commercial, cultural, and educational center of Central China, hospitals have been thrown into chaos. Amid a panicked rush of citizenry seeking acute care, the city was facing shortages of medical beds, testing kits and other supplies. Late last week, 450 military medical staff arrived to help treat patients and a mammoth effort is underway to suddenly build an emergency 1,000 bed hospital.
At the epicenter of the epidemic, the large industrial metropolis of Wuhan has been quarantined for more than three days. A city five times larger than London with more than 11 million citizens has had all its major roads cut off by China’s military and its railway stations and airport have all been shut down. In this broad-shouldered, blue-collared boom town known as the “Chicago of China” citizens have been ordered not to leave the city, asked not to leave their homes, and forced to wear face masks for fear of contagion.
Despite heavy-handed, severe government intervention, the death toll continues to rise. The majority of those killed initially were older men, median age 75 years old, many who had underlying chronic diseases like cirrhosis of the liver, hypertension, diabetes, and Parkinson’s disease. Within the past 48 hours, Chinese state media have reported that several doctors treating patients for this epidemic have also died.
We must support the heroic efforts of our Guam Public Health officials who have tirelessly been preparing for any pandemic eventualities. Public Health director Linda Unpingco-DeNorcey and Dr. Thane Hancock from the U.S. Public Health Service have been remarkably resourceful and accessible during this difficult time and during the preceding Dengue Fever crisis. Along with our hard-working hospital clinical staff island-wide, Guam's Public Health workers represent a robust though underfunded frontline defense against pandemic disease.
According to chinesenewyear.net, this is the Year of the Rat. Rats are ambitious therefore prone to prosperity; clever and quick thinkers; and energetic, but content with living a quiet and peaceful life.
However, Rats may have frail health and are vulnerable to sicknesses, like colds and fatigue and so the Rat will have to be extra careful in 2020.
At the first sign of cold symptoms, Rats should head to their family practitioner immediately. The faster you get medicine and the treatment you need, the quicker you will heal. To stay healthy, Rats must remember to sleep 8-10 hours a night; eat a good breakfast; do moderate exercise daily; quit smoking; put down your smart phones; get a Flu shot, and remain cheerful.
In Chamoru culture, when facing existential threats to our people, our island leaders are expected to manifest power, wisdom, and excellence. As we now worry about our friends in China and pray for them to be spared further suffering, let us continue to be diligent about taking care of each other and to be content with living a quiet and peaceful life on our beautiful island.
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