You might notice that this post alone among the avalanche of posts on this blog, has no picture. Why? Because I FORGOT MY CAMERA this week when I went off to school. I LEFT IT AT HOME. It’s been a living hell these three days, walking around without a camera, missing all those shots, and feeling the terrible pangs of withdrawal. Fortunately alcohol is widely available in Tainan.

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The director of Taiwan’s CDC said yesterday that the pinkeye outbreak in northern Taiwan was the result of poor local hygiene:

The outbreak of pinkeye syndrome reveals that the personal hygiene habits of Taiwanese people are not up to the standards of advanced countries like America and Japan, Steve Kuo, director-general of the Centres for Disease Control (CDC) under the Department of Health said Monday.

One thing I’ve noticed about Taiwanese is that they are apt to be more critical of Taiwan than is necessary, and here’s a splendid example: epidemic disease as a moral failure, very Confucian. If you’re diseased, it’s because you don’t wash your hands enough. All failings are individual moral failings…. Reality? Consider the point of view given here about the pinkeye outbreak at 2 Ivy league universities a while back:

Perlotto said this type of outbreak of pink eye is very unusual.

Pink eye usually is a random infection that just strikes people relatively randomly,” Perlotto said. “It doesn’t occur in a cluster outbreak of hundreds of people at a time. We see it [at Yale] throughout the year, but more commonly in winter. — We think that’s because people are inside more in the winter, around each other more in an enclosed space.”

Pink eye can be spread through hand contact, sharing utensils and towels, Perlotto said. It can be prevented through frequent hand-washing.

“What’s unusual about the outbreak at Dartmouth and Princeton is that it was shown to be caused by a bacteria,” Perlotto said. “Most commonly, conjunctivitis is caused by a virus.”

He said that bacterial conjunctivitis can be treated with antibiotic eye drops.

Though the outbreak is unusual, Stavis said pink eye is not a serious illness.

“I think the important thing to remember is that this is a really mild illness, and even without treatment it tends to resolve itself within a few days,” Stavis said.

Think those students at Princeton and Dartmouth have poor personal hygiene? “Pinkeye is a random infection that strikes people randomly.” What’s happening in northern Taiwan is not a moral breakdown but a statistical fluctuation. Outbreaks happen from time to time, and they happen for no reason. As this article notes of the outbreak:

“First of all, in the past, big conjunctivitis outbreaks were assumed mostly likely viral,” says Turco, “this was bacterial. Second, the CDC determined that the bacterial strain we had was identical to one that caused outbreaks in 1980 and 1981, more than 20 years ago. Third, it’s a wonderful example of private doctors, the state health officials and a federal agency working together so productively.” Turco also notes that Dartmouth’s e-mail system, called Blitzmail, was an extremely effective communications tool.

“Big conjunctivitis outbreaks….” Clearly infections occur in large numbers in the US from time to time. Too, if the lack of good personal hygeine is the cause, why was the last big outbreak here in the 1970s?

Taiwanese tend to frame the behavior of themselves and others in terms of the Confucian moral script — just yesterday I was informed by a local OEM firm owner that the reason a friend of hers, the CEO of a major sporting goods firm, was getting a PHD is because she was afraid of falling behind others, and because she wanted to challenge herself to find her limits — not like Americans, whose culture teaches them not to push themselves. And this from a woman who got her BA and MA in the US!

In other science news, a local observatory has named an asteroid after Chiayi.