Tuesday, December 18, 2007

Worried about bird flu?

We're overdue for a pandemic. With so many people living so closely together in so many different parts of the world it's a miracle that something hasn't hit us hard recently (although it has happened within the last century). If something big breaks out then "they" will just contain it immediately won't they? Even if they don't contain it and it spreads globally then there's nothing you can do, right? Either the bug is going to kill you or it's not. What can you do to stop it? Modern medicine is so advanced that something like that couldn't possibly break out before we could cure it could it? These are all fallacies. You CAN take steps to protect yourself. Modern medicine DOESN'T cure everything. A virus that acts a certain way could easily spread globally before anyone has a chance to contain it. Let's analyze all of this shall we?

First of all our system of travel would make it incredibly easy for the right virus to spread across the globe. I can go from one side of the world to the other in half a day. There are a lot of people doing just that every single day. If the virus acts like the common cold for the first few days before it really starts to kick in then we could have a serious problem. In some countries public transportation is the mode of choice for most people. It would be relatively easy to control the travel in those countries although I'd hate to be stuck in a city that the government decides to quarantine. It would be incredibly difficult in the US, though. People rely on their own cars here. Getting out of an infected city would be pretty easy. We have an incredibly complex system of roads and it would be really hard for the government to be able to police them all.

But what about modern medicine? If something that serious hit us then the greatest minds in the world would be working overtime trying to come up with a cure. How long have they been working on a cure for AIDS? They still haven't found one. There are a lot of diseases popping up now (ever heard of staph infection?) that are incredibly resistant to conventional medicine. We can't even cure the common cold. All that we can do is suppress the symptoms until our bodies beat it. Now if there was a serious global pandemic our entire health care system would be completely overrun for weeks. They'd be too busy trying to treat the sick to be able to find a cure. Even if they did find a cure in decent time they still wouldn't be able to distribute it until it was thoroughly tested and approved by the FDA.

It all sounds pretty bleak. If I get sick I get sick. If it kills me it kills me. What can I do about it? First of all in the case of a global pandemic the flu isn't the only thing that's going to kill you. What's the first thing that will happen when people start to get sick? People will stop showing up for work. Some of the smarter medical personnel will realize that the hospital is the worst place to be which will put even more stress on the overburdened health care system. If the truckers are getting sick or are too afraid to deliver to infected big cities then who's going to resupply the grocery stores? How are people going to act when they're starting to run low on food and they can't get more? When our public service workers are getting sick or are too afraid to go to work who is going to maintain our infrastructure? What happens when starving, sick, desperate people start to realize that the cops aren't even showing up for work? Things may get pretty ugly pretty fast.

Things are looking worse and worse. What can you POSSIBLY do to survive a situation like that, especially if you live in the city? Well a situation like this certainly justifies owning a nice plot of land in the middle of nowhere. Even if you're stuck in the city, though, you can still take steps to improve your chances significantly. Even today people are catching bird flu. The people that are catching it practically live with their birds in squalor. The point is that the more you expose yourself to it the more likely you are to catch it and the more likely it is to kill you if you do get it. Doing simple things like duct taping heavy duty plastic sheeting to your windows and running air filters in your home will go a long way to keeping the bug out of your house. If you stock your shelves with supplies now then you won't have to worry about going to the store when everyone else is sick and desperate to get whatever they can in huge panic buys. If you do have to leave the house you should have some kind of protective mask that you can wear. M95 masks are great but they're one use items and you need a LOT of them if it's an extended outbreak. There are several different military gas masks that would be extremely effective protection. Just make sure you get one that's within it's service life and accepts a current 40mm NATO filter.

Like any other major disaster a global pandemic seems pretty hopeless at first glance. Most people would just assume that there's nothing they can do about it and go about their lives. You owe it to yourself to do everything within your means to improve your chances. If you have a family then you have a duty to protect them. You can never prepare for everything but the more proactive you are the more likely you are to be one of the "lucky ones" that make it through a catastrophe. Don't just assume that there's nothing you can do about it just because you don't want to think about it.