Wednesday, August 10, 2011

A Pandemic

The Spanish Influenza pandemic is the catastrophe against which all modern pandemics are measured. It is estimated that approximately 20 to 40 percent of the worldwide population became ill and that over 50 million people died.

When you think about the population at that time period in our history, 50 Million is an incredible amount of people. Heck, it is an incredible amount by today’s standards!

Between September 1918 and April 1919, approximately 675,000 deaths from the flu occurred in the U.S. alone.

Now, when we look at the records of this pandemic, we find that many died very quickly. These were the folks that perhaps already had an illness, were already susceptible for some reason, or just did nothing to protect themselves.

There were others, according to the records, who woke up feeling perfectly fine in the morning, became sick by nightfall and succumbed to the disease by nightfall. These were, by all rights, folks with no real strength, no real stamina. People that were not ready to fight.

Then there were the others… people who caught colds, got another form of the flu, or who had been trying to respond to the disaster and finally fell victims to the disease they were trying to stop.

Pandemics come in many forms. Throughout our history, we have had many; more than most people like to think about. There was this one, and then of course in 1957 we had the Asian Flu, then in 1968 the Hong Kong Flu, in ’76 Swine Flu came on scene, then in ’77 the Russian flu did its best. A few years ago, we started looking at chickens as if they were Al Qaeda… and it continues.

Are there other pandemics we don’t pay attention to?

I think so.

The word Pandemic is a Greek word.

“Pan” means ALL. “Demos”, where we get our word demographic, means PEOPLE. Therefore, the word PANDEMIC means ALL PEOPLE.

Let’s look at the beginning of the year.

On New Years Eve Day, tornadoes raked across Arkansas and into Illinois. Before noon, houses were destroyed, teams were deploying, and it was the last day of 2010. Nobody paid much attention. Sure, we knew it was happening, but really, it was a freak thing, right? We dismissed it like we would a light cough or slight sore throat.

As the next month began, the weather got worse. By Ground Hog’s Day we were sick of the blizzards, weary from the ice cold arctic blasts, and we had all seen the coverage of snow in the Gulf States. Now we paid a little more attention. It slowed things down, but not too much. We looked at it like the 24 hour flu…it came…it went. A bad, but short memory.

Now springtime came. We knew it was the “season”, and we even talked about it as we watched towns like Mapleton, Iowa get creamed. We started to think it was a lingering cough. Some of us thought of it like walking pneumonia… we wondered if it would get worse or if we could maybe work through it.

Then came Tuscaloosa. Then flooding. Dikes were blown. Levees failed. Then Joplin.


It seemed like pandemic! Every day there was more reports!

But alas, with the exception of a house here, a tree here, a flooded basement here, a county blown apart by a wind storm, the activity died down. And so did our concern and awareness.

Finally, the atmosphere was stable. The weather channel actually had regular programming for a week of days in a row! Greg Forbes went fishing. Think I am kidding? He posted it on his FaceBook.

We are relaxed. The pictures of Joplin are on Google, but at least not in our dreams and nightmares. The grass is green, but it is all that remains of the standing water. The temperatures are even okay here; I might clean out the gutters today.

But is it over?

There’s something you need to know about a pandemic…

They come in waves.

One of the notable characteristics of the pandemics we have had in this country is that they do not occur once. Like an earthquake, sometimes the aftershocks are worse than the initial quake.

The 1918 pandemic began with outbreaks of low mortality in the spring and summer, followed by a more lethal wave in the winter. This pattern has fueled speculation that the strains will undergo mutation that will create similar pandemics.

It is this mutation that leads to the emergence of more lethal versions of the original killers.

And so it might seem with this year’s weather threats.

Just as the temps began to fall. Just as we had time to clean out and organize the Chasing4Life Disaster Response trailer, the news came in…hurricane season is ramping up and everyone that is anyone is back at their desks trying to figure out just how bad it’s gonna get.

The next wave.

So much speculating occurs each day at conferences, in offices, in magazines, on television and elsewhere; is the weather changing?

Couldn’t tell you for sure, but my parents did not raise an idiot.

Did yours?

Where is your weather radio now? Did you ever get one? Was it left on this summer? Is it on now? Are you checking weather forecasts daily? Have you spent time with your family putting together a disaster plan and a home disaster kit? How’s the disaster plan for your pets coming along?

Have you invested in your own recovery? What I mean is, have you given of time or finance to response agencies or groups this year to make sure they can continue to respond to disasters?

Have you seen this year’s conditions change the way you think, live, spend, travel and plan?

Guess what folks. We have a disaster pandemic. Sure, it started out as random coughs and sneezes, but you have to admit, there are towns, cities and communities spread across the country on stretchers and cots now…

It ain’t over.

September is National Preparedness Month.

What will YOU do?