Archive for August, 2020

A comment on Zhou Xun’s article

Zhun Xu[1]

I grew up in the subtropical agricultural area of China, where there are lots of beautiful rivers, marshes, and lakes, and with these, a long history of snail fever (schistosomiasis). Archaeological studies found that a female corpse in the area dating back to the Western Han dynasty some 2,100 years ago also had snail fever. It is a serious communicable disease. I still remember that when I was little, I was scared of seeing an old relative with an abnormally huge belly, which was one of the symptoms of the disease. She had been infected at a young age. I was lucky that, by the time I was born, the snail fever which had haunted my people for thousands of years had been largely suppressed.

This was the result of decades of tremendous efforts by the Communist Party, scientists, and other working people in China since the 1950s. In those days, the government set up massive free science education programmes for the many poor, illiterate rural people. The aim was to liberate and mobilize people through the health campaign. The Chinese people succeeded in this. The process involved some unprecedented changes in people’s lifestyles, such as cleaning toilets properly, distinguishing human and animal water use, etc. You can still see some legacies of that campaign today. Many Chinese residents, when traveling abroad, are frustrated to find that it is hard to get hot water to drink. The obsession with hot water came directly from the health campaign a half-century ago, as the government recommended everyone only drink boiled water, to reduce the chance of infection. Equally importantly, China provided free or affordable treatment for the snail fever patients, and trained more than a million ‘barefoot doctors’ who provided affordable basic health care in the countryside. (more…)

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