Tuesday, November 21, 2006

Pandemic Planning

You know that bird-flu virus which might mutate into a deadly pandemic that kills tens of millions of people in America but might also turn out to be nothing? Sometimes you’ll see articles comparing bird flu to the great flu epidemic of 1918, which killed huge numbers of young, strong, otherwise healthy people.

Weird, that — most flu viruses focus on the old and the weak, in true Darwinian fashion. But the 1918 flu tricked your immune system into attacking your own body. Maybe bird flu will too. That’s why I’m happy to remember that the last time I had a cold the damn thing lingered for three weeks. Clearly my immune system is no threat to anybody, and as an additional precaution my dislike of allegedly good-for-you foods like spinach and lettuce means I’ll never catch e. coli from a vegetable crisper.

Since I’m supposed to get in the Thanksgiving spirit, I’ll mention how thankful I am to know that bad health habits came full circle and landed on the side of the angels this year. May your own vices prove equally profitable.

4 Comments:

Anonymous Brad Warbiany said...

Well, if you really want something to tune up your immune system, how about some infected beer?

Mmm... Sour.

6:42 AM  
Blogger rhhardin said...

Imus started promoting ColdFX, a cold preventative, and 3 days later he got a cold. ``This junk doesn't work'' was the comment. So much for that sponsor.

It strengthens your immune system, it says.

4:16 PM  
Blogger rhhardin said...

Incidentally Zycam actually seems to work, at least for my last 3 colds. Makes them shorter in duration, by a lot.

You do, however, lose your sense of smell for a while, and also sense of most tastes, except for the taste of Snapple Diet Peach, which tastes exactly the same as always.

4:18 PM  
Blogger Anne O'Neimaus said...

I concur with the Zycam endorsement - although only for the cold-specific product. I don't seem to get any noticeable effect with the allergy product.

Whether or not Bird Flu is "the one", we will eventually get hit by a major pandemic. Our worldwide-transportation system just makes any kind of quarantine effort virtually useless for an airborne infectious agent. Or, of course, for an infectious agent that has a really long incubation time, such as AIDS (arguably an "already hit us" pandemic).

Our only hope is to have a health care system with enough quality and capacity to handle it when it comes. Currently, that is probably not the case. Of course, the question comes down to: "How much are we willing to spend, on an ongoing basis, to cover an infrequent - if inevitable - condition?"

The current state of the health-care system is such that the money-driven decision-makers don't really have any incentive to plan for a pandemic. It would cost them money now, and probably wouldn't make them any money when it happens (national emergency, and all that). This is the sort of thing that the "Free Market" is actually rather poor at dealing with - community infrastructure hedged against uncommon eventualities.

As a matter of national defense, we clearly need SOME type of national health care initiative - although the scope of any such project would undoubtedly get out of control almost immediately, and become a bloated monster. However, the question remains: how is this worse than the current system of control by bloated monsters (HMO's and Insurance Companies) that have purely economic (rather than medical or social/societal) interests?

10:40 AM  

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