A fatal outbreak of a mysterious disease resembling pneumonia has Hong Kongers in the grip of panic.
The 305 cases of atypical pneumonia are in Guangdong province in mainland China. 105 are medical staff who were treating infected patients. 220 have been confirmed in Guangzhou, with the rest in five other cities.
Hong Kong has no infections, but that hasn't stopped folks from freaking out. Sales of flu medicine and white vinegar have shot through the roof. Traditional Chinese lore states boiling vinegar with herbs purifies the air.
Supermarkets have been swamped, with vinegar sales reaching levels up to 50% higher than normal. One chain had to restock the shelves twice; the development manager said if the panic persisted, they'd be cleaned out in two or three days.
Smaller grocery stores in the New Territories have made out like bandits, jacking up vinegar prices to extortionate levels.
Hong Kong's bird flu epidemic didn't generate this much fear. It's amazing what rumours can do. I won't join the panicked masses; they can keep their hysteria.
Boiled vinegar would sear my nose hairs and make the flat smell like a giant pickle.