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The Truth About SARS

When a strange new illness starts to spread, fear often invades people's imagination. The SARS epidemic is an example [MEDICINE, May 5]. Warnings from health officials and the media naturally cause people to wonder who is going to get it next. SARS will be contained, but I suspect that, like AIDS, it is here to stay. We will have to make adjustments in our daily activities; otherwise, we are in for a very rough time. Commonsense precautions are what will help us cope with the challenges of the SARS epidemic. Panic and fear will ruin us.

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Jan. 17, 2004

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Anxiety over SARS is justified, but it reveals our lack of perspective. SARS has resulted in hundreds of deaths, but tuberculosis kills 5,000 people each day. Malaria causes more than 300 million acute illnesses and 1 million deaths each year. Influenza kills 36,000 Americans annually, and 42,000 Americans die each year in car accidents. Where is the outcry over these deaths, most of which could be prevented through better health care and health education?
Deerfield, Ill.

SARS hit us hard in Singapore, and we are only now coming to grips with the situation. The government has done a commendable job of alleviating fears. There is a weekly TV program called Living with SARS, and there are notices on the windshields of some public buses with a cartoon of a bus driver saying, "I'm O.K.! Temperature 98.6." SARS won't be disappearing anytime soon, but innovative coping techniques are showing people that there may be a light at the end of the tunnel.

Your article on SARS was informative, but you might have noted that while the Spanish-influenza epidemic of 1918-19 killed more people than died in all of World War I, it disappeared as quickly and mysteriously as it came on, within a year, and hasn't been a problem since. Spanish influenza and SARS may have in common a rapidly changing genetic sequence that would cause SARS to hit a biological dead end. I certainly hope it does.
Las Vegas

Although our May 5 cover depicted a Western face to avoid stigmatizing Asians, some saw the choice as an unwelcome intervention in Mother Nature's affairs. "I would love to have been a fly on the wall when you decided to put a blond-haired, blue-eyed woman on your SARS cover," mused a California man. "Political correctness has morphed into comedy!" Seeing something more akin to tragedy, another Californian called the image a "ridiculous selection" and explained that her ethnically diverse high school students "found the picture to be racist, promoting a fear of Asians." A Massachusetts man also charged us with racism: "It appears that you care only about the welfare of whites."

Seeking a Second Term

I couldn't help being saddened by the article on George W. Bush's second presidential campaign, "Taking Aim at 2004" [NATION, May 5]. For the Bush Administration to "capitalize on the memory of 9/11" by scheduling the G.O.P. Convention to coincide with the anniversary of the tragedy is sickening. I am sure the families who lost loved ones will not appreciate being used to increase Bush's popularity. It is appalling that tens of millions of dollars will be spent on TV campaign ads. With unemployment rising and many Americans unable to feed their families, this is just another indication of the arrogance and uncompassionate nature of the Bush team. I can only hope the Democrats will choose a candidate with some backbone.
West New York, N.J.

Creating jobs and fostering economic growth need to be our No. 1 national priorities. President Bush recognizes this and has delivered a jobs-and-growth plan that will create 1.4 million new jobs in the next two years. Twelve Senate Democrats understood the important impact tax relief has on growing our economy when Bush's tax plan was passed into law. Why are Senate Democrats ignoring their previous support for tax reduction and its economic impact? They should line up behind the President and give the economy the boost it sorely needs. Cutting taxes is the right thing to do to grow the economy.
Fredonia, N.Y.

That Bush may win a second term as President is more than worrying. To think he may be given another four years to entrench his good-vs.-evil foreign policy while destroying everything standing in his line of fire (including relationships with allies such as France) underestimates the intelligence of the American people. I wasn't one of those who followed the European fashion of protesting Bush's policy on Iraq just because it was war, but I can't see that the war improved anything. Terrorism is still a threat, and the Iraqis are still unhappy. For the sake of the future, I hope Americans will see the larger picture when voting in 2004 and, while naturally considering their own interests, acknowledge those of the rest of the world.

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