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SARS and historical plagues to feature in exhibitions


The outbreak of severe acute respiratory syndrome (SARS) has not only aroused the public's concern over environmental hygiene, but also sparked an interest in Hong Kong's fight against past plagues.

Now the public can appease their curiosity at a free exhibition at the Hong Kong Museum of History. "We Shall Overcome: Plagues in Hong Kong History" will open on June 25 in the main lobby of the museum.

Meanwhile, the Hong Kong Science Museum, which is next to the Museum of History, will launch an exhibition called "SARS and Viruses". The exhibition will provide the public with a better understanding of SARS, including the classification, replication and pathology of the virus, the symptoms, treatment and preventive measures. The exhibition will run free of charge from June 30 to September 20 in the main lobby of the Science Museum.

More than 1,700 people have been infected with SARS and almost 300 people have died from the disease. It has also spread to more than 30 places around the world. Thus a better understanding of the disease is important in preventing it from reoccurring and spreading.

Apart from display boards rich in information on scientific research, the public will see a 3D model of the coronavirus illustrating the physical structure of the virus, which is believed to be a causative agent of SARS. The public can also operate and have their temperature taken by an infrared forehead temperature scanner on loan from the Department of Building and Real Estate of the Hong Kong Polytechnic University. Infrared devices are now being used at ports and borders to detect suspected Sars patients.

"We Shall Overcome: Plagues in Hong Kong History" is a retrospective detailing major epidemics that once threatened Hong Kong and the efforts of the Government and the people to contain their spread. Through text panels, charts, historical photographs, and other items, the exhibition is expected to help strengthen the determination of Hong Kong people to overcome SARS.

The Chief Curator of the Museum of History, Dr Joseph Ting Sun-pao, noted that the origins of some folk customs could be traced to these outbreaks.

"With advancements in medical science and improved sanitation, the damage brought by epidemics has been greatly reduced in the past few decades. However, as far as the extermination of the outbreak of epidemic diseases and stopping their spreading are concerned, we still have a long way to go," Dr Ting said.

He pointed out that in spite of the frequent "Keep Hong Kong Clean" campaigns launched by the Government over the years, the sanitary conditions of some streets and buildings were still appalling.

"Daily living habits and sanitary practices of some Hong Kong people are still far below the standards of other international cities. The outbreak of SARS serves as a striking reminder of the problems in Hong Kong.

"History makes man wise. One should learn from our past. The outbreak of SARS starting from late March this year has already claimed some 300 lives in Hong Kong, including many health practitioners fighting on the frontline who have made the supreme sacrifice to save others. While we mourn for the loss of these respected people, we should reflect and learn so that the sacrifice made by these people will not be in vain," Dr Ting said.

The Museum of History is located at 100 Chatham Road South, Tsim Sha Tsui, Kowloon. It opens from 10am to 6pm Monday to Saturday, and from 10am to 7pm on Sundays and public holidays. It closes on Tuesdays (except public holidays). For more information, call 2724 9042.

The Science Museum is located at 2 Science Museum Road, Tsim Sha Tsui East, Kowloon. It opens from 1pm to 9pm from Monday to Friday, and from 10am to 9pm on Saturdays, Sundays and public holidays. It is closed on Thursdays (except public holidays). For more information, call 2732 3232.

End/Wednesday, June 18, 2003

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