It’s never the wrong time for a panic!
Our esteemed leader, he of the strong chin and fine six pack is off tomorrow to visit Princess Margaret hospital. Don’t you feel better for that? Of course there is no better expert in the transmission of viruses and the treatment of the disease than a property tycoon. Wow! Why didn’t we think of that before? Instead of the ridiculous sight of Betty Tung dressed for space, we coult have sent Li Ka Shing to check it out and reassure us all.
Mask makers of Dong Guan (or whever they are based, will be rubbing their gnarled old hands in anticipation of more good times once the H7N9 virus hits town. You’d think people would know by now that masks are absolutely useless as a means of protection.
Anyway, never one to pour water on a good panic I will simply sit back and watch. After all the Chief Executive has everything in hand. Yippee!
Question: How big is small?
Bear with me, you will soon see where we are going with this.
How big is a micron? Microns are really small. An average human hair is about 100 microns. Pretty small! How about a nano meter? How big is one of those?
There are 1000 (one thousand) nanometers in one micron. That means that an average human hair is 1000 x 100 nanometers. How many is that? Here is 1. Here are 100 1s: 1111111111111111111111111111111111111111111111111111111111111111111111111111111111111111111111111111 Now lets multiply our 100 1s by 1000….Well, I’m sure you can imagine.
I have been using an average human hair as a benchmark, why?
Stay with me. The average human beard grows at 14.5 centimetres per year or 145 millimetres per year OR 14500 microns per year…. OR 14,500,000 nanometres per year OR about 40,000 nanometres per day OR 1655 nanometres per hour!
Hold on to that bit of info for a minute.
We are in danger of becoming, for the second time in recent years, a society of pure fear. Bird flu has appeared in China! Quick run for the hills, strap pieces of paper to your face. Stop the viruses attacking and killing you.
How big is a virus? They range in size from a few tens to a few hundreds of nanometers. Lets take the biggest likely. We will call him Vern, Vern the virus is 400 nanometres big. Big lad, our Vern. Now Vern has a friend called Irwin and another friend called Algernon and another friend called Honeysuckle. Irwin climbs up on top of Vern, Algernon climbs up on top of Irwin and Honeysuckle climbs up on top of Algernon. So we have a bunch of viruses, so what?
The government encourages the use of paper masks when Hong Kong plays host to bird flu or SARS and the manufacturers of those masks just keep taking your money.
After just one hour there is a space where you think your mask fits your face of about 35 centimeters in length and 1600 microns high due to the growth of your beard in one hour. Vern doesn’t even look up, he just gets sucked in when you breath and sails past the mask, past the tree trunk whiskers, over the roughness of your skin, up your nose or into your lungs. Vern is not alone he brings his friends, thousands of them, millions of them and they have but one aim – to make you sick.
When you breath out the air is under pressure and so any viruses in your exhalation might get stopped by the paper mask if it is fine enough, but you don’t breath in under pressure. The air for your inhalation comes from all around you, from round your ears, round your eyes, everywhere.
Vern quite enjoys his journey into your lungs and quite enjoys making you sick. As he passes under your mask he is laughing as loud as he can… but you wont hear him – he is far too small.