Currently called "Disease X," a new strain of bird flu in China is racking up significant fatalities - roughly 38 percent of those people infected are killed by the disease.
Newsweek ran this article on June 15. Other publications, such as The Atlantic, published articles as recent as three days ago decrying our lack of readiness for the next pandemic, such as Ebola. Even if you take away the unnecessary political bias in The Atlantic piece, it's clear the threat of pandemic is starting to bubble to the surface again in the minds of the disaster cognoscenti.
Pandemics rank high on the fear factor, in large part due to movies about pandemics over the last few years. The recent Ebola outbreak which saw two nurses in Dallas contract the deadly disease further alarmed Americans who were paying attention to such things. Slate provided an extensive timeline on how these two nurses contracted the disease and unwittingly exposed others to it.
CNN ran a piece last year entitled "Seven reasons we're more at risk than ever of a global pandemic." As with any mainstream media piece, all the bases are covered: increased global travel (widely understood and appreciated), climate change (the predictable boogeyman for various things that ail us), and calls for communities to become more resilient (a great idea, and one I advocate).
But one item stood out as a bit unexpected but intriguing nonetheless: "Faster communication raises the risk of pandemic." According to the CNN infographic, the worst case is "fearful rumors may trigger panic, which might hinder key institutions like stock markets and emergency responders."
A few weeks ago on my YouTube channel, I spent a fair amount of time discussing this article from B.J. Campbell entitled "The Suprisingly Solid Mathematical Case of the Tin Foil Hat Gun Prepper." I mentioned in my video that the article is perhaps one of the best articles on preparedness I had ever read, and I encourage you to spend time reading it as well.
In Campbell's effort to explain that those who are into preparedness are justified based upon a statistical approach using historical data, he writes:
The zombie apocalypse is obviously pure fiction, but it has an allure to a few tongue-in-cheek preppers because of its functional completeness. If you are prepared for zombies, you are literally prepared for anything. The key fixture of zombie preparedness is a fundamental understanding of what happens when our systems of economics, governance, and civil infrastructure fail. There’s a great one going on right now in Venezuela, with people eating rats and dogs, incapable of trading in the local currency, and a general humanitarian disaster associated with descent into anarchy. No class of person is more capable of riding out a situation like that than a well-provisioned zombie prepper. Various fixtures of zombie prepping include:
While no one I know truly believes there is such a thing as a zombie apocalypse, the closest thing to one would be a global pandemic like the ones referenced above. Watch the movie World War Z sometime to get a feel for the parallels between a zombie outbreak and a pandemic.
The pandemic scenario - or zombie apocalpyse if you prefer - is a useful tool to those in the preparedness and disaster planning community for the reasons Campbell mentions. It provides us a scenario requiring full spectrum readiness: food, water, power, sanitation, security and medicine.
Feel free to dismiss the concerns over another pandemic (although experts will tell you it's not a good bet to make - check out these reports from CNN and NPR). But for all of us who advocate for better readiness at all levels, fewer perils give us a better assortment of "things that would go wrong" than a pandemic.
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