Wednesday, April 29, 2009

The Pandemic is Near, Or May Be Here

Doctors, scientists, and other experts on global health have been predicting a major pandemic for several years. We average about three pandemics every century – and most experts agree we are long overdue for the one knocking on our doorstep.

All pandemics – repeat ALL PANDEMICS – are deadly. That’s one of the qualifications to calling something a “pandemic.”

We’ve already seen numerous deaths from the Swine Flu spreading out from patient zero in Mexico, to just about every continent on the planet. Yesterday, Canadian and American health officials said the infection rates would get worse, and we’d most likely see people die in both countries.

And we have – today in Canada’s largest city, a 29-year-old woman died from the Swine Flu. Just this past Monday, an infant – a mere 23-months-old – died in Texas from Swine Flu. The infant was the first person to die outside of Mexico from this fast-spreading bug.

Along with Canada, the States and Mexico, six other countries have confirmed cases of Swine Flu. They are Austria, Israel, Germany, New Zealand, Spain and the United Kingdom.

Today, we all came a step closer to fearing death, as the World Health Organization (WHO) raised its pandemic alert status to five – that’s the second highest level, the next level is a full-fledged global health disaster known as a “pandemic.”

We haven’t been this close to a pandemic ever – not even when Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS) spun around our globe. Over 30-countries were hit by SARS, killing almost a thousand people, creating panic and chaos in towns, villages and cities where people were infected, and sinking the economies of those towns, villages and cities into the depths of recession, as people stayed home, fearing they would be the next SARS victim.

That’s one of the not often talked about victims of a pandemic – the economy. We’ve been in an economic downturn worse than the Great Depression – so we must logically be in a depression, if not worse already – but things will quickly go from horribly bad to gut wrenching worse if Swine Flu is the pandemic we’ve been expecting this century.

The last real pandemic was the Asian Flu Pandemic from 1957-1958. About four million people around the world died from this flu, which begun as a disease in wild ducks in Southern China, before mutating into the bug which eventually could infect human beings.

SARS came out of China, when a man ate an infected cat. Here in North America, we’d never think about eating an animal which we often invite into our homes, as one of our closest family members.

Other major global diseases which have sliced through our world from Asia include Avian Flu, which came out of Hong Kong in 1997, killing 257 people and Hong Kong Influenza which claimed about a million lives from 1968 to 1969.

China is a pandemic breeding ground, according to some experts, because of the living conditions, culture, and large population squished into geographically small areas.

But other countries have had their good names tarnished by winning the infamous prize of starting a pandemic. The Spanish Flu Pandemic of 1918 killed an estimated 20 to 100 million people, mostly in Europe. Some academics claim it actually started in Tibet, but this hasn`t been proved yet.

Then there was the Russian Flu in 1889, with a million deaths, which started in China . . . hey . . . there`s that country again.

Even the pandemic of pandemics – the Bubonic Plague – began in Asia. This is currently the world`s worst medical disaster, where over 25 million people died. It is said that 50 percent of Europe`s population was wiped-out from this disease, which was spread by infected fleas in the 14th to 17th century.

Maybe instead of focusing on Afghanistan, Iraq or a couple handfuls of Middle Eastern countries, our world leaders should be looking at China, Mexico and other countries which may be the breeding grounds for the next great plague?

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