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dangerous eating habits in China


rezaf

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Xuesheng123

You could say you have a hereditary Immuno-deficiency condition and your yisheng told you to avoid as much foreign bacteria entering your system as possible during your trip to China.

Thats what I would do if I were as worried as you are about contracting Herpes and Hepatitis -- which I don't blame you for! These diseases are life-long and, to be frank, bitches.

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Kenny同志

One of the greatest risks may lie in being infected with hepatitis B. I believe most Chinese will find it very embarrassing or even unimaginable to propose using communal chopsticks at a gathering of family members or friends though we are well aware of the dangers therein. Even when a Chinese knows someone is HBV positive, it would still be very hard for him or her to refuse to dine with the sick; this is especially true if the Chinese happens to be a traditional person.

I have a little cousin who is HBV positive. For fear of the potential risks my parents might be exposed to (I have the antibody) when dining with her family, I once suggested to my parents that we use communal chopsticks or not eat in her family; we had a long discussion, or rather a mild debate, but at the end of it, my parents refused; they tried to convince me that the risk was not that great as we only dined with her family on an occasional basis; they also said our refusal to dine with her family would be considered a total disrespect to my uncle. I was very upset but I understood my parents’ feelings. I am not a cruel person. I have great sympathy for my little cousin’s wretched condition. But however large my sympathy for my cousin, my unwillingness to dine with her family would very likely be interpreted and perceived by others as disrespect. In my view, this is a sort of 面子 thing that always sets us up in ostensibly pleasant yet in-reality torturing situations. Some old ideas ought to be abandoned.

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I think nowadays the person who is sick will automatically stop sharing with the family. This is what happens when members of my family are sick. A portion of each dish is put together on a plate for the sick one but we still dine together on the same table, if the sick one is strong enough, that is.

Communal chopsticks / spoons are almost always used in restaurants now. We have great fear of transmitting diseases because of the SARS outbreak. My observation is that locals don't find using them hard / embarrassing / incovenient. Usually it is the non-locals who are not used to them.

I think the OP, as a medical trainee and a non-local, can consider directly suggesting using communal chopsticks / spoons etc to friends / family (argue from a medical / being civilised perspective). They might take offence but because of the OP's situation they might not react strongly. But I think this might not be helpful if the OP wants to better the relationship or be regarded as part of the community / family. It is kind of difficult to have it both ways.

Just my two cents.

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Kenny同志
I think nowadays the person who is sick will automatically stop sharing with the family.

True, but not in all cases.

PS: I don't think being infected with some contagious diseases is disgraceful.

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Surely foreigners have access to hepatitis A/B vaccines...? These tend to be quite effective.

Also, I was under the impression that while hepatitis A is spread through water/saliva/poor hygiene, hepatitis B is only spread through blood/sexual contact. What other dangerous diseases do we have in mind here?

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Online lists suggest these diseases:

1- Contagious From Saliva:

Common Cold

Flu

Upper Respiratory Infection

Meningitis

Bacterial meningitis

Mononucleosis

Epstein-Barr virus

Cold sores

Cytomegalovirus

Molluscum contagiosum

Hepatitis B

Chronic Hepatitis B

But theoritically lots of other diseases can also be transmitted by saliva although the risk is not as high. I'm gonna vaccinate myself against hepatitis but vaccination is not available for lots of other things like herpes. Oral herpes can really be annoying.

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Either assert yourself and change your family's dining habits - present it as concern for their health rather than yours though - or just put up with it. I'm sure the same training that taught you about the risk will let you figure out how minor it is.

Or - get your wife pregnant, you can get away with any number of daft health-based practices then. You could probably get everyone eating in full radiation suits.

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As I said there are many diseases that can be transmitted through saliva and cause chronic conditions that might cause cancer or other problems many years later.
Thing is, we probably all do things that can lead to cancer or other illnesses in the future. Drinking, smoking, breathing China's big-city air, eating out in restaurants you don't want to see the kitchen of, crossing the road, etc etc etc. Of course you don't want to increase the risk if you can help it, but in the end, you can't eliminate all dangers.
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rezaf, there is a vaccine against the saliva-transmitted bacterial meningitis as well. (They require you to get it if you want to live in a university dorm in England, so I happen to know...) If this is something that worries you, you may look into getting it, especially if you're planning to work in a health care setting (I somehow got the impression you do, but I may be wrong on that one).

Re all the different herpes viruses. Yes, herpes sucks, but if you track down the statistics for how many people have developed antibodies for the type 1 virus by age 40 or so, you'll find it's about 60-90%, varying between different populations. So you need to be very lucky to remain herpes free, and perhaps we just need to accept the risk of becoming infected as a fact of human life.

For the common cold and upper respiratory tract infection (even mono to some extent)... these are impossible to avoid, unless you wish to live a highly secluded life.

I agree with Lu that if I were in China, I would be more concerned about air pollution and general restaurant hygiene.

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anonymoose
They require you to get it if you want to live in a university dorm in England, so I happen to know...

Really? Is that a nationwide thing, or just depends on the uni? When was that introduced?

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Really? Is that a nationwide thing, or just depends on the uni? When was that introduced?

I guess they cannot "force" you, but it's "highly recommended". This website says the meningitis C vaccinations where phased in nationwide during 1999, and most kids now get it together with the other standard vaccinations in school. For international students, they inquired about vaccination records when we registered with the NHS, and they probably try to make you get it then if you haven't already. I think the main problem is a lot of kids living close together with a shared kitchen and less-than-excellent hygiene.

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Is there a way to explain this to them without offending them?

Actually, most Chinese do understand this. If you pay close attention to how (most?) Chinese eat, you will notice that they, in general, do NOT place their chopsticks into their mouth, or at least try to avoid touching the chopsticks to their lips. [Which is why sucking on your chopsticks, which I've seen many westerners do, is a major major no-no.] Along with that, they will avoid touching food with their chopsticks unless they are going to put it into their bowl. In addition, you'll note that most Chinese, when passing food to someone that is not a close family member, will often turn their chopsticks around and use the back ends.

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OK, whatever you do, DO NOT EVER eat 山楂 or persimmon with crabs. I know 2 people personally who've eaten the former with crabs and ended up getting a dangerous unwanted growth in their stomachs. One of them had an operation to have it removed and was incapacitated with several weeks, and the other (my grandmother), compiled some Chinese medicine ingredients into a tonic and drank it everyday for about a month before it completely dissolved.

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There's a lot of these superstitions going around, such as the effects of combining durian and whiskey - I have yet to see scientific evidence for one of them.

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My great-uncle ate a persimmon and crab sandwich once. But before we could observe the results he went to sleep with the fan on. Poor great-uncle.

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My great-uncle ate a persimmon and crab sandwich once. But before we could observe the results he went to sleep with the fan on. Poor great-uncle.

Exactly my point. For those who believe that such rules are only superstition, some eating habits are actually very dangerous.

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I have absolutely no idea what you mean. For reference, I think you're a little credulous.

For further reference, there is such a thing as a bezoar, and unripe persimmons can apparently cause them. But crabs don't come in to it.

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