Economic Collapse? World War IV? Creeping Socialism? We Should Be So Lucky

 

A lot of us have something we’re afraid of, something huge and apocalyptic and on the way.  If you live out here, in California, it’s The Big One, the 11.3 earthquake.  It could be some giant asteroid crashing into the earth. Survivalists and people like that – you know the type: prepared for the apocalypse, hideout in the desert, stockpilers of canned tuna and chlorine tablets and cross-bows –don’t even bother to predict the actual specifics of the civilization-ending calamity they’re preparing for.  Just call it “The Event” with alarming vagueness. The Event.  Doesn’t really matter what it is, exactly: earthquake, bio-terror, computers become self-aware, super-big meteor, flesh-eating virus, the rise of the apes – whatever.  It’s the event, and it comes, and for the next couple of years we’re all living in huts and hunting squirrels.  And that’s what they all agree on: we don’t know exactly what kind, but there will be an Event.  You can count on that.

So, a confession:  I get an email, twice-daily, from the International Society of Infectious Diseases.  It’s called the ProMED email, and it lists in excruciating detail the various diseases that have been reported, worldwide – all of them, human, plant, and livestock.

Why did I sign up for this? Beats me.  But I think it’s because I travel a lot, and one of the things I’ve noticed is how close we are, all of us, despite living in nice neighborhoods in a nice country, to a lot of scarier, dirtier places.  By close I mean: a guy from a remote village in China or Africa or wherever has a strange infectious disease – maybe he got it from livestock; maybe he got it from a weird insect; maybe he just got it – and he gets on a train or a bus and coughs on a passenger who gets on a plane with a layover in Frankfurt and infects the airplane seat and every surface he touches, which is touched by a guy flying to JFK, who infects a guy who lands at LAX and before you know it, New York, Los Angeles, and Frankfurt are all petri dishes of some odd, unexplainable, and probably disgusting disease.

I know, I know: I’m nuts.  But then, a couple of weeks ago, I get my ProMED email and read this:

Ugandans flee Island on Lake Victoria over an outbreak of strange disease —————– Hundreds of people on Sigulu Island on Lake Victoria have fled their  homes this week [week ending 4 Jun 2010] due to an outbreak of a  strange disease. Field reports indicate that at least 2 people have  been killed by the strange disease and more than 20 have been admitted to Uganda and Kenyan hospitals.  Dr. Stephen Kirya, the Bugiri district health officer, says some of the people who have fled from their homes are displaced within Bugiri  town council. The strange disease broke out on the Island last week.  The victims complain of stomach pains, headache and diarrhea. The  doctors say the outbreak of this strange disease is not cholera.

That’s what they call it: “a strange disease.”  And these are professionals

My guess is, when The Event comes, it’s coming first as an entry in the ProMED email.

There are 18 comments.

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  1. Profile Photo Member
    @AaronMiller

    I believe the end of the world will begin when Michael Jordan returns to baseball.

    • #1
  2. Profile Photo Inactive
    @themotleycow

    So there was an outbreak of “strange disease” in Africa and you waited a couple of weeks to warn us. How could you?

    And now I read about the drunken red-collared lorikeet calamity. For how long were you going to keep that under your vest, sir?

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  3. Profile Photo Inactive
    @FeliciaB
    the motley cow: And now I read about the drunken red-collared lorikeet calamity. For how long were you going to keep that under your vest, sir? · Jun 24 at 4:48pm

    This is my favorite quote from the email you referrenced:

    “He looked just like a drunken person leaning against a wall to keep himself upright,” Ms Hansen said. Another glassy-eyed bird was lying on the floor of a cage, looking like he had just had a big night out. Others have been found with their heads under paper seemingly trying to block the world out, or wandering aimlessly around in an apparently intoxicated state.
    • #3
  4. Profile Photo Inactive
    @MatthewGilley

    When these deadly mysterious illnesses break out, to whom do people turn? France? China? The WHO or UN? Nope, America’s own CDC. Why is that?

    Probably because U.S. healthcare sucks and needs oppressive 2,000+ page legislation to give it hope.

    • #4
  5. Profile Photo Editor
    @RobLong

    Matthew: exactly right. I mean, I read ProMED for the little shiver of terror that goes up my spine when I read words like “mysterious illness” and “explosive dysentery” and “international airport” all mushed up together. But true enough: it’s the United States doing the complicated work of organizing all of these emerging diseases. To be serious, for a moment: the key, I think, to solving and curing a lot of these infectious (and non-infectious) diseases is going to come from collecting and sifting as much data as possible. In essence, I think a lot of the most amazing medical breakthroughs are going to come from the Google-izing of world health issues. Calling Dr. Savage…..

    • #5
  6. Profile Photo Thatcher
    @Caryn

    In all fairness, in the original ProMED post, which announced a request for information, the section that you quote is taken from a Ugandan News source. That is often where they start and then subsequent postings follow with further information as it develops. The part you quoted–selectively, I might add–was then followed by some educated commentary:

    [The description of the symptoms of the illness alarming the
    inhabitants of Sigulu Island on Lake Victoria is not sufficiently
    specific to suggest a diagnosis. A haemorrhagic fever seems unlikely
    and none of the diseases featuring in previous ProMED-mail posts
    originating from <b>Uganda</b> in 2010 seem appropriate (see below).

    Rift Valley fever has been reported in animals in neighboring Kenya,
    but so far not in humans (see: Rift Valley fever – Kenya: alert,
    prevention <a href=”http://www.promedmail.com/pls/otn/f?p=2400:1001:6770062720408941::::F2400_P1001_BACK_PAGE,F2400_P1001_ARCHIVE_NUMBER,F2400_P1001_USE_ARCHIVE:1202,20100520.1675,Y” mce_href=”http://www.promedmail.com/pls/otn/f?p=2400:1001:6770062720408941::::F2400_P1001_BACK_PAGE,F2400_P1001_ARCHIVE_NUMBER,F2400_P1001_USE_ARCHIVE:1202,20100520.1675,Y”>20100520.1675</a>). ProMED-mail would welcome specific
    information about this outbreak of illness from an informed source in
    the region. Unfortunately, there hasn’t been any further information on this possible outbreak. That might well mean that it turned out not to be anything out of the ordinary range of diseases afflicting Ugandans, of which they are legion.

    Nice to see you subscribing outside your comfort zone!

    • #6
  7. Profile Photo Thatcher
    @Caryn

    Something odd seems to be going on with formatting. Some of that last post was cut off on the right; same thing with FeliciaB’s. Or maybe that’s just how it looks on my monitor… Anyone else see what I mean?

    BTW, I didn’t mean to sound quite so stuffy there, but you all are dancing around in my bailiwick! I’ve been a ProMED subscriber for over a decade (I’m a researcher in epidemiology of infectious diseases) and that stuff can be very useful. And scary.

    PS. I wash my hands a lot!

    • #7
  8. Profile Photo Inactive
    @FeliciaB
    Caryn: Something odd seems to be going on with formatting. Some of that last post was cut off on the right; same thing with FeliciaB’s. Or maybe that’s just how it looks on my monitor… Anyone else see what I mean?· Jun 24 at 7:31pm

    Caryn, I think that formatting issue was because the format was picked up from the ProMED website.

    I’ve always been interested in bizarre diseases throughout the world. I think what makes disease be termed as bizarre or unusual is because we live in such a pristine country. Having grown up in Latin America, eating whatever the natives ate, I had so many parasites in and on my body. It really didn’t seem too unusual for us living there. But the U.S. is soooo clean conscious. Maybe we’re a little too clean conscious. Maybe we need to let our kids get dirty and eat stuff off the floor sometimes to toughen the up a bit. Of course, I must disclose my hypocrisy. I really want to take my 3 kids back to where I grew up. Yet, I’m terrified of them getting dirty and getting parasites.

    • #8
  9. Profile Photo Inactive
    @rr
    FeliciaB

    But the U.S. is soooo clean conscious. Maybe we’re a little too clean conscious. Maybe we need to let our kids get dirty and eat stuff off the floor sometimes to toughen the up a bit. Of course, I must disclose my hypocrisy. I really want to take my 3 kids back to where I grew up. Yet, I’m terrified of them getting dirty and getting parasites. · Jun 24 at 7:42pm

    You know, that’s interesting. A couple of MD’s I know believe the increased allergies our kids are having is due to the fact that they live in these protected, plastic coated, purell infused environments. Have you noticed how peanut and other allergies have skyrocketed in the last decade? Public schools have “no peanut” sings on various classroom doors. There has also been an increase in cavities over the last ten or 15 years. With kids drinking more bottled water, they’re not getting the fluoride we’ve all gotten for years in the tap water. So…get those kids in the dirt!

    • #9
  10. Profile Photo Member
    @AaronMiller
    FeliciaB

    Maybe we’re a little too clean conscious. Maybe we need to let our kids get dirty and eat stuff off the floor sometimes to toughen the up a bit. Of course, I must disclose my hypocrisy. I really want to take my 3 kids back to where I grew up. Yet, I’m terrified of them getting dirty and getting parasites. · Jun 24 at 7:42pm

    Thankfully, whenever I give my nephew back the candy he dropped on the floor and see him pop it in his mouth, Momma just gives me a scolding smile and lets it go. So far.

    I wonder if any of you remember this story from last year?

    Matthew Gilley: When these deadly mysterious illnesses break out, to whom do people turn? France? China? The WHO or UN? Nope, America’s own CDC. · Jun 24 at 5:20pm

    And yet, at other times, the CDC is ignored entirely.

    • #10
  11. Profile Photo Inactive
    @rr

    Rob Long: To be serious, for a moment: the key, I think, to solving and curing a lot of these infectious (and non-infectious) diseases is going to come from collecting and sifting as much data as possible.

    Yeah, you know Rob, I think there was a provision slipped into the Obama care bill that creates such a database and sends it directly to BO’s Mac book every morning for some perusing of our private medical records before it’s off to hit the links. It’s the section of the bill right after the nationalization of the student loans and just before the section that sets up the “tell us your deepest darkest secrets” database.

    Seriously though, such data sets do already exist in some capacity. They are created and monitored by Medicare and Medicaid. Every time a doctor gets reimbursed from Medicare or Medicaid, the report certain data and codes applied to each disease. Data are available for purchase by researchers and cost tens of thousands of dollars. But not to worry, I’m sure they’ll be easy to get and there won’t be much bureaucracy to wade through….

    • #11
  12. Profile Photo Thatcher
    @Caryn
    Samwise Gamgee

    A couple of MD’s I know believe the increased allergies our kids are having is due to the fact that they live in these protected, plastic coated, purell infused environments.

    It’s more than a couple of MDs. It’s becoming widely accepted among infectious disease people. Has been for a few years.

    FeliciaB

    Maybe we’re a little too clean conscious. Maybe we need to let our kids get dirty and eat stuff off the floor sometimes to toughen the up a bit. Of course, I must disclose my hypocrisy. I really want to take my 3 kids back to where I grew up. Yet, I’m terrified of them getting dirty and getting parasites.

    Well, I don’t shake hands, avoid touching doorknobs, and wash my hands. A lot. But then, I also garden and eat my home-grown produce with not much more than a wipe. Grocery store produce, I wash with soap. It’s not as nuts as it may sound. Soil is not nearly as nasty as what might be on someone’s hands. So, skip the cake and let them eat dirt! Well, maybe just play in it…

    • #12
  13. Profile Photo Thatcher
    @Caryn

    Okay, why didn’t the FeliciaB quote not get a box? I’m not very adept at this…

    Speaking of Felicia, I got shudders when you mentioned parasites. There’s a reason I work with bacteria. The worst class I had to experience in Grad school was “Tropical Infectious Diseases.” I spent 10 weeks (quarter system) watching slide shows of people with various parasites in every imaginable part of their bodies. I also spent 3 hours a week of those 10 weeks with nearly uncontrollable shivers. Bleaaahhhh!

    • #13
  14. Profile Photo Member
    @AaronMiller

    Caryn, I always worried more about tropical insects than tropical diseases. When I was a produce clerk, I was always opening boxes of bananas and Asian vegetables. Luckily, I didn’t see too many, but the ones I did see were colorful (usually a warning). I’ve lived around Houston almost 30 years, and every year I see new bugs, courtesy of the Port of Houston.

    Here in the subtropics, we get trucks to drive around our neighborhoods and spray for mosquitos periodically; to guard against West Nile virus, encephalitis and such. I’ve never seen those trucks when I travel around the country. Is it a regional practice?

    • #14
  15. Profile Photo Editor
    @RobLong

    Caryn, I hereby appoint you the official Ricochet Infectious Diseases Expert. I’ve traveled all over, but the sickest I’ve ever been — probably from some revolting thing I’d prefer not to think about — was right here in Los Angeles.

    And I’ve been subscribing to ProMED for about 2 years, and began compulsively washing my hands after the first week.

    • #15
  16. Profile Photo Thatcher
    @Caryn

    Rob, I tried to post on Friday from my phone and was unable. I could read my whole oddly formatted earlier post, though. Trade-offs, I guess. Is there a reason for inability to post from a phone, or is it just mine?

    Anyhow, thank you for the kind words and (unofficial, I assume) “appointment.” I was (and am) thoroughly tickled and would be happy to serve in such capacity to the best of my knowledge and ability. I have a great stock of reference materials!

    BTW, Aaron is right to worry about insects, at least on the local level. There are several cases of malaria every year that come from mosquitos that hitch rides either on planes or barges. Fortunately, their life span is short and there isn’t a pool of infected carriers to bite (and then transmit to the uninfected), so any outbreak is usually very limited. Still, not nice to be that one case! If you have any odd and nasty symptoms, make sure to alert your physician to your workplace risks–it places diseases he wouldn’t have previously considered into the differential diagnosis. Could save a lot of time and–potentially–your life.

    • #16
  17. Profile Photo Editor
    @RobLong

    Thanks for accepting the post, Caryn. And we promise: we’re working on the posting-by-phone issue. I like to check on Ricochet throughout the day, and it will be great when I can add a word or two via phone.

    • #17
  18. Profile Photo Thatcher
    @Caryn

    Ah, good to know it wasn’t just me having trouble with the phone. I haven’t had it long and I’m still learning its capabilities. For someone who works all day with a computer and has been using them since before DOS, you’d think I’d be more tech savvy. I guess I’m just not interested enough. And being in academia for (mumble mumble) years, I’ve always had a 24/7 tech desk available and haven’t had to learn. Finding information via the computer is another story, as it’s part of what I do for a living and I like to think I do it pretty well. Cooking, too. So, feel free to come to me for infectious disease and recipe advice.

    • #18
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