Here's a hypothetical, fictional scenario, which I'm sure plenty of people working in this field have nightmares about, but which hopefully paints a meaningful picture for a very important question.

I'm in a farm in Southern China on vacation, and something feels wrong. Everyone from the town seems to be gathered around a group of children and elderly who are exhibiting flu-like symptoms. But as I walk down the line, I see those who arrived earlier. They're much worse. Profuse vomiting and diarrhea, sweating, and coughing. Then one of the town medics sneezes.

My traveling partners and I cover our eyes and faces and ask where the doctors are, and we're told that they're busy in the next town over. It would seem that a concerned father of a sick boy from a neighboring town came to request urgent assistance from local doctors, and two days later the staff of the inn where he stayed began showing symptoms. My friend asks a medic where those staff are now, as all those in the group of the sick are either very young or very old. The answer is clearly some kind of euphemism for something the medic doesn't want to say.

So this mystery disease is highly contagious, progresses rapidly, and can be fatal. Looks like a potential pandemic.

We call up the World Health Organization (which doesn't seem to have a report-a-disease hotline, strangely enough). After explaining the situation and probably spending 20 minutes being redirected until finally landing at the right desk, what would they ask us to begin mounting a response?


In China, to report an infection outbreak, you don't call World Health Organization (WHO), but the Chinese Center for Disease Control and Prevention. They should have the most up to date information about recent infections. For example, in the US, CDC has National Outbreak Reporting System (NORS) and if you call them, they may redirect you to a state health department.

They would ask you:

  • Where are you located?
  • Personal info: age, sex, where are you from?
  • What are your symptoms and when they did start?
  • How many other affected people have you seen?

They would tell you:

  • Is there any drug available and where to get it.
  • Do you need to avoid any food or water.
  • Do you need to avoid the contact with other people.
  • To go in quarantine or to leave the area or not.

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service, privacy policy and cookie policy

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.