"this is going to get out of control … this is going to get out of control, and we’ll be lucky to live through it" (name the movie, win a prize)
As I was waiting in the Orlando airport waiting for my flight, I read the National Geographic issue on the upcoming avian influenza pandemic. Their high estimate was 300 million dead. Even the more realistic estimates of 100-150 million are staggering numbers, but there is another dimension of the pandemic: the disruption of economies and travel. Riots would break out over stocks of Tamiflu and Relenza, economies would collapse when foreign trade shuts down–no goods would move from infected areas (i.e. china). Even if the spread of disease is arrested quickly, the disruption in shipping may prove to have enormous consequences. Hospitals will be overloaded, unable to supply medications and beds for the afflicted, morgues will overflow. Fresh foods will be unavailable, mail and freight services will be interrupted (mail, UPS/FedEx), the movement of products will stop. To avoid this, we need to prepare for disaster–it’s not an issue of If, it’s a question of When.
But this dark cloud could have a silver lining. If the pandemic comes, maybe we will learn that nationalism and ethnocentrism need to go, as borders really mean nothing. The framework of intellectual property rights will have to change, as it stands now Roche will protect their patents on Tamiflu, to the detriment of the people of the world. Cultures will have to change–living in such close quarters with animals is a quick way to have diseases jump species. 300 million may be a small price to pay for these changes, if they come to pass.