DISEASES IN CHINA
AIDS, tuberculosis and rabies are the three deadliest infectious diseases in China.
Hepatitis and stomach parasites are common in China. Millions of people have dysentery. Malaria is found in some rural areas in southern China, but not in the major cities or the northern and western parts of the country. Outbreaks of cholera have occurred in China. Outbreaks of bubonic plague occurred in the 80s in Yunnan and Qinghai.
Rabies has been reported in the countryside. Extremely painful and lethal, rabies is an infectious disease transmitted by a bite from infected animals, which includes dogs and bats. It works its way through the nervous system, beginning around the bite, and causes painful muscles spasms, especially around the throat and eats away at the brain and causes insanity. Victims usually die of hydrophobia (paralysis of the breathing muscles). See Pets, Sports and Recreation
China’s laws formally ban foreigners entering the country with “serious psychiatric illness, infectious pulmonary tuberculosis and other infectious diseases that may constitute a major threat to public health.” It used to ban all foreigners with “psychiatric illness, leprosy, AIDS, sexually-transmitted diseases, active pulmonary tuberculosis and other infectious diseases.” In April 2010, China lifted the ban on people with HIV/AIDS and leprosy entering the country.
Websites and Resources
Good Websites and Sources on Disease in China: The Chinese Center for Disease Control and Prevention chinacdc.net ; Center for Disease Control on China CDC World Health Organization on China who.int/countries/chn ; Wikipedia article on Public Health in China Wikipedia ;Rare Diseases in China , Lancet Article thelancet.com ; Burden of Disease in China pdf file dcp2.org/file/53 ; AIDS-HIV: Article on AIDS in China avert.org ; WHO China Office Report on AIDS wpro.who.int ; China AIDS Info china-aids.org China AIDS Medica Project chinaaidsmedia.com ; SARS : CDC Paper on Origin of Sars www.cdc.gov ; SARS Map nationsonline.org ; SARS Book Stanford University ; Influenza and A/H1N1 Flu: Flu in China flu.org.cn ; Paper on Flu and Ducks ncbi.nlm.nih.gov ; Paper on effects of Flu Pandemic in China interscience.wiley.com ; Bird Flu: Avian Influenza Info avian-influenza.info ; WHO Avian Influenza Reports who.int/csr/disease/avian_influenza ; Flu in China flu.org.cn ; Bird Flu Center bird-flu-center.com; CDC on Bird Flu cdc.gov/flu/avian
Good Websites and Sources on Health in China: Center for Disease Control on China CDC World Health Organization on China who.int/countries/chn ; Wikipedia article on Public Health in China Wikipedia ; Short UNICEF Article on Health Issues in China unicef.org ; On Health Care in China: Health Care in China, an IBM pdf file ibm.com/de/healthcare ; Pape on Chinese Helat Care from the 1990s mtholyoke.edu ; Library of Congress Country Studies countrystudies.us Paper on Chinese Health Insurance allacademic.com ; Ex-Pat Report justlanded.com ; China Health Care Blog chinahealthcareblog.com Asia Health Care Blog asiahealthcareblog.com
Links in this Website: HEALTH IN CHINA Factsanddetails.com/China ; HEALTH CARE IN CHINA---DOCTORS, INSURANCE AND COSTS Factsanddetails.com/China ; HEALTH CARE IN CHINA--- TRANSPLANTS AND DRUGS Factsanddetails.com/China ; TRADITIONAL CHINESE MEDICINE Factsanddetails.com/China ; ACUPUNCTURE Factsanddetails.com/China ; QI GONG AND MOXIBUSTION Factsanddetails.com/China ; ANIMAL PARTS AND CHINESE MEDICINE Factsanddetails.com/China ; DISEASES IN CHINA Factsanddetails.com/China ; AIDS-HIV IN CHINA Factsanddetails.com/China ; SARS IN CHINA Factsanddetails.com/China ; INFLUENZA AND A/H1N1 FLU IN CHINA Factsanddetails.com/China ; BIRD FLU IN CHINA Factsanddetails.com/China
Plague Comes from China
In November 2010, researchers announced that the first outbreak of plague occurred in China more than 2,600 years ago before reaching Europe via Central Asia's "Silk Road" trade route, according to a study of the disease's DNA signature. The findings flesh out long-held suspicions about the Chinese origins of the plague, which killed an estimated third of Europe's population in the Middle Ages. [Source: AFP, November 1, 2011]
An international team of scientists sequenced 17 strains of Y. pestis, building a genetic "family tree" of pathogens that mutated from a common ancestor. "The results indicate that plague appeared in China more than 2,600 years ago," France's Museum of Natural History, which took part in the research, said. It then spread towards Western Europe along the Silk Road, starting more than 600 years ago, and then to Africa, probably by an expedition led by Chinese seafarer Zhang He in the 15th century, it said. Plague came to the United States from China via Hawaii in the late 19th century, according to the molecular evidence. It arrived in California through the ports of San Francisco and Los Angeles before heading inland. [Ibid]
"The work highlights specific mutations in the bacterium showing how the germ evolved within given geographical regions," the museum said in a press release. "But it demonstrates in particular that successive epidemic waves originated as a whole in Central Asia and China." The study, published online on Sunday by the journal Nature Genetics, was led by Mark Achtman of University College Cork in Ireland. Scientists from Britain, China, France, Germany, Madagascar and the United States also took part. [Ibid]
Diseases in China in the Mao and Deng Eras
As a result of preventive efforts, such epidemic diseases as cholera, plague, typhoid, and scarlet fever have almost been eradicated. The mass mobilization approach proved particularly successful in the fight against syphilis, which was reportedly eliminated by the 1960s. The incidence of other infectious and parasitic diseases was reduced and controlled. Relaxation of certain sanitation and antiepidemic programs since the 1960s, however, may have resulted in some increased incidence of disease. In the early 1980s, continuing deficiencies in human-waste treatment were indicated by the persistence of such diseases as hookworm and schistosomiasis. Tuberculosis, a major health hazard in 1949, remained a problem to some extent in the 1980s, as did hepatitis, malaria, and dysentery. In the late 1980s, the need for health education and improved sanitation was still apparent, but it was more difficult to carry out the health-care campaigns because of the breakdown of the brigade system. [Source: Library of Congress]
“By the mid-1980s, China recognized the acquired immune deficiency syndrome (AIDS) virus as a serious health threat but remained relatively unaffected by the deadly disease. As of mid-1987 there was confirmation of only two deaths of Chinese citizens from AIDS, and monitoring of foreigners had begun. Following a 1987 regional World Health Organization meeting, the Chinese government announced it would join the global fight against AIDS, which would involve quarantine inspection of people entering China from abroad, medical supervision of people vulnerable to AIDS, and establishment of AIDS laboratories in coastal cities. Additionally, it was announced that China was experimenting with the use of traditional medicine to treat AIDS. [Ibid]
“In the mid-1980s the leading causes of death in China were similar to those in the industrialized world: cancer, cerebrovascular disease, and heart disease. Some of the more prevalent forms of fatal cancers included cancer of the stomach, esophagus, liver, lung, and colon-rectum. The frequency of these diseases was greater for men than for women, and lung cancer mortality was much greater in higher income areas. The degree of risk for the different kinds of cancers varied widely by region. For example, nasopharyngeal cancer was found primarily in south China, while the incidence of esophageal cancer was higher in the north. [Ibid]
Parasites and Worms in China
According to one survey 700 million Chinese (62 percent of the population) are infected with at least one kind of parasite, and up to 90 percent of the children in some rural areas suffer from chronic worm infections---roundworm, whipworm and hookworm---which can stunt growth and cause deficiencies in mental ability.
An estimated 200 million people in China have hookworms’sharp-toothed parasites that attach themselves to intestinal walls and suck blood. They can stunt growth and cause anemia and lethargy. Hookworm enter the body through the skin, often bare feet, and travel through the blood to the lungs and reach they stomach when they are coughed up and swallowed. From the stomach they move to the intestines, where they can reach lengths of four inches (most are less than a half inch).
People can be infected by a thousand worms that can live for or five years and can collectively suck up to a cup of blood a day. Hookworm is treatable but people who live in areas where it is found tend to get it repeatedly. The parasites favor damp, cool environments and are particularly common in cotton, rapeseed and tobacco fields.
Schistosomiasis(bilharziasis) has become a serous problem in China, particularly in southern China, afte rit was almost eradicated under Mao. The Three Gorges Dam project is expected to increase the spread of the disease.
Schistosomiasis is caused by a blood fluke (tiny worm also called a flatworm) that goes through a complicated life cycle utilizing a species of freshwater snail. After maturing inside a human host, adult flukes pair for life and produce thousands of eggs that damage organs and are discharged in urine and feces. The larvae that hatch from the eggs work their way into the snails that in turn produce large number of larvae capable of penetrating human skin. The flukes lives in the veins, bladder and large intestine of their human hosts and borrow molecules form their hosts to wear on their surfaces so the hosts’ immune system can't recognize them as alien.
Visceral leishmaniasis has been reported in Xinjiang. Leishmaniasis is a parasitic disease found in tropical and subtropical areas of the world. Transmitted by the bite of some species of sand fly, it comes in cutaneous (skin) and visceral (internal organ) forms. Cutaneous leishmaniasis is characterized by open or closed skin sores. Visceral leishmaniasis typically develops over several months and is characterized by fever, enlargement of the liver and spleen and anemia.
Encephalitis, Meningitis and Dengue Fever in China
In 2003, 211 cases of encephalitis and 13 deaths attributed to the disease were reported in Guangdong Province. Japanese encephalitis is a mosquito-born viral disease that usually infects people in rural areas in the summer and autumn in temperate regions and some parts of Asia It is transmitted chiefly by the Culex vishui and Culex tritaeniorhyncus mosquitos, which bite mainly in the afternoon and evening and develop from larvae found mainly in cultivated rice fields and marshes. People traveling in rural areas have a stronger likelihood of contacting the disease than those who stay in urban areas. Most people who are infected display no symptoms, but the fatality rate is as high as 30 percent among victims who are hospitalized. Severe swelling in the head and central nervous system are manifestations of severe cases of the disease.
In February 2005, there were reports of bacterial meningitis in Anhui Province, In the summer of 2006, 160 people contacted meningitis from eating undercooked giant Amazonian snails at a Beijing restaurant. All the victims recovered. Bacterial meningitis is the more serious and potentially fatal form of meningitis. Symptoms include severe headaches, progressive drowsiness or confusion, vomiting, irritability, high-pitched crying (especially among very young children), a stiff neck and sometimes painful sensitivity to light and a sore throat. In the days before antibiotics, most victims died. Today the survival rate is 90 percent (most fatalities occur among the very young and very old). The disease is treated with antibiotics and diagnosed with a spinal tap (after a local anesthesia for pain is administered a hollow needle is inserted in the vertebrae and a small sample of spinal fluid is collected).
There was a surge in the number of dengue fever cases reported in southern China in the summer of 2006. Dengue fever is a nasty, viral disease transmitted by the Aedes mosquito, usually the Aedes aegypti, the same mosquito that often carries yellow fever. Sometimes called "breakbone fever" or "break-heart" because of the intense pain it can produce, the disease is characterized by sudden onset of fever; intense pounding, frontal headaches; aching bones and joints; nausea and vomiting; and a feeling of being too sick to eat anything. Other symptoms include severe sweats, chills, and excruciating chest pains. Tests foe dengue rely on the presence of antibodies, which can take up up to a week to develop.”
Polio Outbreak in Xinjiang
In September 2011, CNN reported: “An outbreak of polio has been confirmed in China for the first time since 1999, leaving one person dead and hospitalizing another nine, according to the World Health Organization (WHO). The disease, a contagious viral illness that in its most severe form causes paralysis, difficulty breathing and sometimes death, broke out in the prefectures of Hotan and Bazhou in the country's western Xinjiang province. Among the ten cases confirmed, six are in children under three years old and four are young adults. [Source: Jaime FlorCruz and Haolan Hong, CNN, September 21, 2011]
The WHO said evidence indicates the virus is genetically linked to polio cases currently circulating in Pakistan, which borders Xinjiang. Pakistan has been affected by the nationwide transmission of the same WPV1 strain.It also warned the virus could spread beyond the current affected area. The polio virus can travel great distances and find susceptible populations, no matter where they live. "Although other areas in China or other countries are not immediately at risk due to the geographic distance to the affected province, the polio virus can travel great distances and find susceptible populations, no matter where they live," Helen Yu, from the WHO's Beijing office told CNN.
According to China's Center for Disease Control and Prevention, the Ministry of Health has dispatched a group of public health experts to the affected region to help treat the virus. It said the local government had launched a mass vaccination campaign starting in early September. WHO confirmed initial vaccination campaigns carried out by mid-September had reached over 3.5 million children -- children being particularly vulnerable to polio. Further vaccination campaigns will be conducted in the near future to ensure this outbreak is brought completely under control, according to the health ministry.
"No matter how long a country has been polio-free, as long as global polio eradication has not yet been achieved, the risk for importation remains and constant vigilance is required." said Yu. Polio, also known as poliomyelitis, is usually transmitted through contaminated food and water. It invades the nervous system and often leads to permanent paralysis. It can be prevented by immunization. This is the first outbreak of polio in China since 1999, when a case was reportedly brought into the country from India.
Unusual Diseases in China
In the late 1980s two epidemics of an Ebola-like hemorrhagic fever were blamed on an accident at secret biological weapons plant in a remote area near a nuclear testing site. Hemorrhagic fever (DHF) occurs when capillaries leak and the circulatory system collapses.. Those that die of dengue fever often get DHF hemorrhaging in the final stage of the sickness. Failing to realize they are infected, they don’t get treatment soon enough and lose blood plasma and go into shock after the initial fever passes. Some victims die within 10 hours of developing serious symptoms if they don’t get appropriate treatment.
In August 2005, an outbreak of anthrax killed one person and infected 12 others near Shenyang in the northeastern province of Liaoning. Anthrax is a bacterial disease usually associated with farm animals. People rarely get unless they have handled or eaten infected animals. Those who get it usually get cutaneous anthrax, which us caused when the bacteria is absorbed through cuts in the skin. Very few people get the pulmonary form which is caused by inhaling the bacteria's spores and considerably more deadly.
Anthrax is a soil-dwelling bacterium. The disease picked up by inhaling microscopic amounts of spores causes malaise, vomiting and fever and difficult to distinguish from other diseases. The disease is deadly in 90 percent of cases if not treated with antibiotics before the onset of symptoms. Suffocation can occur after four to seven days. Anthrax can be prevented with a vaccine. If large amounts of antibiotics are given to people before symptoms develop they usually can survive. But once symptoms set in a person usually dies within 36 hours.
In 2004, two people were injected with bubonic plague in Gansu and Qinghai Provinces. One died. Plague is deadly in 100 percent of cases if not treated with antibiotics with 12 to 24 hours after the onset of symptoms. It is highly contagious. Outbreaks of the disease occurred in the 80s in Yunnan and Qinghai.
In August 2009, thousands of people were placed under quarantine, including the entire town of Ziketan, in Qinghai Province after three men---a 32-year-old herder, 37-year-old farmer and 62-year-old man---died of pneumonic plague and 11 others were infected. Medical teams were sent to the area to disinfect buildings and kill rats.
Hanta virus, which is carried by East Asian rodents, has infected Russia, China, Taiwan and South Korea.
In June 2007, more than 200 cases of hand, foot and mouth disease---a viral infection common among children---was reported in Beijing. About 90 percent fo the victims were under five.
Cancer in China
Gastrointestinal cancer is now the number one killer in the countryside. It is estimated that nearly two thirds of China’s rural population---more than 500 million people---use water contaminated by human and industrial waste.
China has high rates of liver, stomach and esophageal cancer. Some of these diseases have been linked to water pollution. Air pollution has been blamed for China's rising rates of cancer and respiratory disease. Rates of breast cancer used to be five times lower in China than in the United States but the gap is narrowing among urban Chinese. Many attribute the change to changes in diet. Widespread smoking and a preference for televisions over refrigerators is believed to related to a high rate of disease among some Chinese.
Sexually Transmitted Diseases in China
Venereal disease was nearly eradicated in China by the Communists. When the Communists took power in 1949 China was suffering from one of the largest syphilis epidemics ever. The disease was largely eliminated by the 1960s thanks to a decades-long effort led by doctor from Buffalo, New York named George Hater, who later renamed himself the Ma Haiteh.
Since the 1980s, there had been a dissemination of sexually transmitted diseases to every province and all the major cities in China. Statistics show that in sixteen major cities, the average incidence of STDs was 21.02 per 100,000 in 1987. In some cities, the incidence was as high as 336 per 100,000, resembling that in some Western countries. In Helongjiang province alone, the incidence of STDs increased at the rate of 8.9 times/per year from 1982 to 1988. By the end of 1988, when this province had the fourth highest incidence in the country, 4,558 cases had been reported; and it was estimated that reported cases represented only 20 percent of the total incidence. Nationwide, the number of STD cases reported from 1980 through the end of 1988 was 140,648, with more than 56,000, over 39 percent of these, occurring in 1988 alone. In 1992, the figure of 45,996 new reported STDs cases was 4.86 percent higher than in 1991.
In recent years sexually-transmitted diseases have returned at alarming levels. In 2006, there were 174,596 reported case of syphilis, up 31 percent from 2005. Some think the true number is 10 times higher.The incidents of syphilis increased from 0.2 cases per 100,000 in 1993 to 6.5 cases per 100,000 in 1999. According to one report sexually transmitted diseases increased 170 times between 1984 and 1994 and continue to grow at a rate of 20 percent a year and have contributed to the small but growing HIV problem.
According to researchers at the University of North Carolina sexually-transmitted diseases are increasing in part because economic reforms and globalization “have led to income gaps and a cultural climate that favors re-emergence of prostitution due to a substantial majority of men and large migrant population of male workers.” The report also blames the fact that youth are experimenting with sex before marriage at increasingly younger and younger ages.
Pig-Bourne Disease in China
In 2005, there was an outbreak of a pig-bourne disease in southern and southwest China that killed one out of five people who became infected with it. The disease, caused by Streptococcus suis, a bacteria usually associated with pigs, killed 38 and infected more than 206 and left hundreds of pigs dead as of August 2005.
Most of those who got sick were young male farmers who had eaten raw pork or pig products or who had handled pigs infected with the bacteria. Disease-infected pork that made one man critically ill was later sold at a local market by his wife. Symptoms included nausea, fever, vomiting and bleeding under the skin. One of the biggest problems in fighting the disease was that doctors could not find the right drugs to treat it. Many patients developed meningitis, a swelling of the brain covering and spinal chord, and experienced severe respiratory problems and had to be put on respirators.
Outbreaks of the pig-borne disease were reported mainly around the Ziyang and Neijang areas between Chengdu and Chongqing. in Sichuan Province, and to a lesser extent in Guangzhou Province. The disease was first detected in June 2005 among farmers in Sichuan who butchered or handled infected pigs. Cases of the disease among humans had occurred before but they were mainly people who had slaughter infected pigs and had cut themselves and had been infected with the blood of an infected animal. What was unusual about the 2005 outbreak was that the death rate was so high and the outbreak was so large.
Beijing was anxious not to repeat mistakes made during the SARS outbreak. Pigs were killed, farms were disinfected and shipments of pork from infected areas were blocked. There was no evidence that disease had been passed from humans to humans.
The Chinese government was quite open about the outbreak. The state-controlled media said that the government’s practice of hiding information about epidemics was over. An editorial on the China Daily praised local authorities for their “timely response and thorough disclosure of the truth to the public” in regard to the disease.
Hand, Foot and Mouth Disease in China
A nasty form of hand, foot and mouth disease killed dozens in central China in 2009. Tens of thousands caught the disease, almost of them children under five.
As of late May 2008, 42 young children died and 25,000 people had fallen ill in China in an outbreak of a lethal form of hand, foot and mouth disease, a common childhood illness caused by an intestinal virus that is not related to foot and mouth disease that affects livestock. The disease is highly infectious and is especially dangerous to young children. All the fatalities occurred to children under six, with most of children under two.
The virus behind the outbreak was identified as enterovirus 71, or EV71, a particularly nasty strain of hand, foot and mouth disease, which causes high fever, meningitis, encephalitis, pulmonary edema and paralysis in a small number of children. Symptoms included fever, blisters, mouth ulcers or rashes on the hands and feet. Some victims had brain, heart and lung damage, There is no known treatment for the virus. Patients with the usual strains of the disease recover in a week to 10 days. But the symptoms with EV71 were more severe. The disease thrives in warm weather and the chance of getting it can be dramatically reduced with rigorous hygiene.
Hospitals in Fuyang in the eastern province of Anhui first reported the disease in late March 2008 but the outbreak was not made public until late April, mainly due to problems identifying the disease not because of a cover up. As of late April 2008, 19 young children had died and 800 others had fallen ill in Funyang. Schools and day care centers there were closed. Rumors spread that a local river was the source of the infection.
A doctor in Funyang---Liu Xiaolin---alerted experts when children began dying of disease that her colleagues insisted were merely suffering from colds and the flu. She is credited with developing effective treatments to fight the disease. Many of the children who died did so because their parents thought they only had the flu and did not them get them treated quickly enough.
In May 2008, and 8-month-old girl and three others from Guangdong and an 18-month-old boy and one other child from Guangxi died of the hand, foot and mouth disease, indicating the disease was spreading south. By the end of May there were 42 deaths of children attributed to the disease, including two in Beijing, nationwide. An additional 11 people had died and 3,000 had contacted the disease in Vietnam.
High Rates of Nearsightedness in China Linked to Studying All the Time
David Pierson wrote in the Los Angeles Times: “The children at the Bayi Xiwang elementary and middle school are doing something revolutionary by current Chinese standards: They're playing outside. Singing and skipping in the dizzying southern Chinese humidity, these students have been given 45 minutes a day to frolic under the sun while peers across the nation remain indoors, hunched over books or squinting at blackboards. By forcing youngsters to put down their pencils and expose their eyes to natural light, researchers think they can stem an explosion of nearsightedness in China. [Source: David Pierson, Los Angeles Times, July 5, 2012]
“By the time they complete high school, as many as 90 percent of urban Chinese youth are afflicted by the condition known as myopia, in which close objects can be seen clearly but things just a few feet or inches away start to blur. That's about three times the rate among U.S. children. Even more troubling is the severity of the Chinese cases. Between 10 percent and 20 percent of nearsighted Chinese children are expected to develop "high myopia," which is largely untreatable and may lead to blindness. [Ibid]
“The problem for China is really quite massive," said Ian Morgan, a visiting professor at the Zhongshan Ophthalmic Center at Sun Yat-sen University who helped organize the three-year clinical trial in Guangzhou. "Their best-educated kids---kids who are going to be the intellectuals or political leaders---are going to be progressively losing vision as they get older." Even China's authoritarian leaders have had to ask schools to ease off. In 2010, several provinces banned public preschools from instructing 3-year-olds to memorize 10 Chinese characters a day. [Ibid]
“Myopia has steadily increased in concert with China's urbanization and intensified academic competition. It's not uncommon for children in China to study four hours a day at home on top of a full day of school as well as attend several hours of tutoring on weekends. "Parents want their kids to get into the best primary school so they can have a better chance at the best high school that can help them get into Beida, Tsinghua and Fudan," Morgan said, referring to China's three elite universities. "Educational pressure and the disappearance of a strong preventive agent---time outdoors---is driving kids to myopia.” [Ibid]
Are Genetics a Cause of China’s High Myopia Rates?
David Pierson wrote in the Los Angeles Times: “Experts remain divided on how much genetics is to blame for China's struggle with myopia. Scientists have found more than two dozen genes linked to the problem, especially for the most severe forms of the condition. Children whose parents have myopia are also more likely to develop nearsightedness. [Source: David Pierson, Los Angeles Times, July 5, 2012]
“But Morgan, an Australian, is trying to prove its origins are largely environmental and linked to schooling. Nearsightedness is rampant in the Asian Tiger economies of Hong Kong, Taiwan and Singapore where academics are similarly rigorous, even among children who aren't ethnic Chinese. For example, research has shown that students of Indian ancestry living in Singapore have rates of myopia eight to nine times higher than their peers living in India, Morgan said. Myopia is also prevalent in Orthodox Jewish schools where reading requirements are intense. [Ibid]
“Fishing for older records in China, Morgan and his colleagues found studies that showed the condition affected about 20 percent to 30 percent of young adults in Guangzhou in the early 1970s, near the end of Mao's violent Cultural Revolution. Schools and universities were closed, intellectuals purged. Some victims were targeted for merely wearing spectacles. [Ibid]
Eyeglasses Companies Cashing in on China’s High Myopia Rates
David Pierson wrote in the Los Angeles Times: “The epidemic has provided optical companies with an opportunity to serve a need---and to cash in. China's market for spectacles and contact lenses is expected to double to $5.3 billion in 2012 year from just four years ago, according to Euromonitor International, a consumer research firm. [Source: David Pierson, Los Angeles Times, July 5, 2012]
“Many new shopping malls feature a floor dedicated to eyewear where anyone can buy the latest Prada or Hugo Boss frames. Getting lenses measured and fitted can take as little as an hour. Mason, Ohio-based LensCrafters recently expanded its network of 200 outlets in China by opening special luxury-branded stores named LC+ in Hong Kong, Shanghai and Beijing. For those on a budget, state-owned optical shops can still be found in any city charging as little as $10 for a new pair of glasses. [Ibid]
“China has also become one of the world's fastest-growing markets for foreign contact lens makers. Although U.S. sales have flattened, Bausch & Lomb estimates the overall market in China will grow 10 percent to 15 percent a year for ordinary vision-correcting lenses, and 20 percent to 30 percent annually for cosmetic lenses that enable users to change the color of their pupils or give the appearance of larger eyes. [Ibid]
“The market will grow since contact lens penetration rates in China are much lower than the rest of the world," said Ian Dolling, business unit director for Bausch & Lomb in Shanghai. "As the economy develops, more people can afford to purchase contact lenses." The same can be said for laser corrective surgery, which was introduced to China in the mid-1990s and has grown steadily to 1 million procedures a year. [Ibid]
China’s Solution to It Myopia Problem: Study Outside
David Pierson wrote in the Los Angeles Times: “Beijing restaurateur Wang Jiali said she's convinced that too much studying ruined her eyesight. Growing up in Jianyang in western Sichuan province, she studied in a classroom from 7:30 a.m. to 6:30 p.m., followed by four hours of homework under poor home lighting. [Source: David Pierson, Los Angeles Times, July 5, 2012]
“By age 11, Wang strained to read the blackboard. By age 12, she was wearing her first pair of glasses---a pair of cheap red frames whose lenses cracked twice in the first three months. She hated the glasses instantly and feared they would make her eyes bulge. "I worried I was going to get goldfish eyes," said Wang, now 32 and part-owner of an American-style grill in Beijing. She recently paid $2,134 to receive laser corrective surgery. "The first thing I did was watch 'American Idol,'" Wang said. "I was so excited I could see properly.” [Ibid]
“Despite a 2007 order by Chinese authorities to boost physical education in schools to combat obesity and deteriorating eyesight, many educators---and parents---have resisted. Morgan and fellow researchers at the Zhongshan Ophthalmic Center had to negotiate hard to persuade six schools to allow students a daily recess break. (Another six signed on as "control" groups, making no changes to their routines.)
Morgan wanted more than an hour of outdoor exercise a day. The schools agreed to 45 minutes and structured lessons in the open air, sometimes with singing, dancing and the occasional hula hoop. "We roll out a blackboard onto the playground and create situations where the students can practice English with each other or draw outside," said Wang Xiaojia, Bayi Xiwang's principal. [Ibid]
“The researchers acknowledge this may be as close as they get to giving young Chinese eyes a break. "If your prescription at the end of the day is making Chinese care less about education, then it's not going to happen," said Nathan Congdon, a professor at the Zhongshan Ophthalmic Center. "That's like telling Americans to like basketball or football less.” [Ibid]
Text Sources: New York Times, Washington Post, Los Angeles Times, Times of London, National Geographic, The New Yorker, Time, Newsweek, Reuters, AP, Lonely Planet Guides, Compton’s Encyclopedia and various books and other publications.
© 2008 Jeffrey Hays
Last updated July 2013