Episode-402- The Startling Reality of Pandemic Threats

The real threat of pandemic disease if honestly startling.  In spite of the recent H1N1 (swine flu) no event the pandemic threat is always with us.  Today’s show has a mountain of scientific facts and figures that should drive home the reality of how ominous this threat to survival really is.

Join us today as we discuss…

  • Pandemic vs. Epidemic
  • The probability, impact and commonality of pandemic and epidemic
  • How real the threat is
  • A true scientific consensus
  • Why the Spanish flu in 1918 seems to have killed so many healthy people
  • The speed of mutation at the viral level
  • What the infection and death rates from the 1918 pandemic would look like with a population of 6.7 billion – 2.4 billion infected – 60 million dead
  • The total number of hospital beds in the US and the harsh reality of what that means
  • Two lesser pandemics that killed 1.9 million people globally
  • 5 emerging threats that have nothing to do with the flu
  • The monetary cost of infectious disease
  • Nipah – a disease unknown until 1999 with an 80% death rate

Additional Resources for Today’s Show

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8 Responses to Episode-402- The Startling Reality of Pandemic Threats

  1. I remember reading (and later watching the movie) “The Stand” by Stephen King. I think that was the first time it dawned on me how the infrastructure would fail with a wide-spread pandemic event. When power was finally restored, the gruesome duty of cleaning up dead bodies began. UGH!

    This is one of those topics that no one really wants to think about, but we’ve seen how fear of illness can send our country into a tailspin. I can only imagine how badly we (as a whole) would handle the real deal. All the more reason to prep by storing food, water, etc.. The last place I wanted to be during the H1N1 fiasco -or even the normal flu season – was my friendly WALMART. :)

  2. With ObamaCare passing this week, and a very large number of medical providers threatening to retire or quit, we may have a very interesting set of circumstances.

    Note: even with the “Doctor Fix” being added to deal with the threat by over 30 percent of physicians to quit, I’m sure some percent will quit or retire on principle.

    Here by Chicago, many of us remember Mayor Jane Byrne. She’s famous for one thing. She’s the one who sent all the snow plows to Atlanta to dig them out of an unexpected storm, just in time for another one to hit Chicago and have no equipment available. She was then unelectable to any office and referred to as, “That Damn Jane Byrne” by pretty much anyone who said her name on camera until she was basically forgotten. It didn’t help that most of her other policies and proposals were breathtakingly Pelosi-esque in their short-sighted insanity.

    When a pandemic does hit, it will be like trying to fight a small war after the post-cold war “peace dividend” stripped most of our capacity. Our current wars are incredibly expensive for their scope due to so much of the capacity being “outsourced”, and the difficulty in mounting “surge” strategies, which could be defined as finally putting the appropriate level of force capacity in theater instead of fighting a much slower war with a minimal force level. I wonder if the cost of these wars being drawn out will exceed the savings from the 1990’s base closings.

    I am not trying to start a debate on military issues, just point out by analogy that we are doing the same with medical issues. The weaker the capacity of a system, the more things that would seem easily defeated now will become multi-year drains on the economy later, with a corresponding jump in casualty rates.

  3. Hi Jack,

    Great show, I’m sure it took a ton of research time. Your gas tank analogy for being prepared was pure genius.

  4. I have a copy of the 2010 AHA database, I think the following figures are relevent:

    There are 6,342 hospitals in the US excluding territories.

    There are a total of 791,010 beds (every type, including skilled nursing care, psychiatric, etc…)

    The types of beds that may possibly be used during a pandemic add up to 547,309.

    I can provide further clarification or details from the AHA 2010 DB if anyone would like.

  5. Good show, Jack, but an important calculation appears mistaken: (2.4 billion people) X (2.5% death rate) = 60 million dead, not 600 million dead.

  6. Modern Survival

    @Jacob, looks like I merged two calculations. One was for 1918 H1N1 the other for modern day H5N1. I did make your correction in the notes.

  7. When thinking about our decisions to vaccinate or not I want to consider the future as well as the present. I agree that the H1N1 was not a big deal and we don’t (need)to be vaccinated. However vaccinations can have a long term effect. They can also help lessen the severity or prevent some future strain. When I am 75 and the shit has hit the fan, will I benefit from some vaccinations I got this year or the next? Maybe then there will be no vaccinations available and only those people that were vaccinated all along will survive. Food for thought.

  8. Even if a pandemic doesn’t happen, the threat or fear of one can lead to negative economic consequences. This happened at my workplace due to the H1N1 virus. I teach English to international students in a huge program in California . The summer enrollment at my school fell by over 30% due to the H1N1 panic. A few teachers went on furlough as a result.

    The Korean government even required some Korean students returning from our school back to Korea to stay in quarantine at home for a week (this was after it seemed pretty clear that the dangers had been hyped up).

    This hit home to me that widespread panic can lead to immediate and personal consequences. Imagine the panic if H1N1 had really been a significant threat!

    Furthermore, because of increased globalization in this day and age, the ability for disease or news of disease to spread is greatly increased, and authorities often do not agree (especially across cultural lines).

    Even if just a “minor” pandemic occurs, being prepared could make a big difference.

    Jack, thanks for an interesting show.