Oct 16, 2014

Tipping Point

I think (hope) ebola won't get any more of a toehold than it has in the US. I suspect I'm wrong. We're going to see more cases.

If some chucklehead in ISISILEIEIO decides to weaponize a handful of True Believers and send them to a hotel in $AmericanCity for a week or two, then go forth to ... Chinatown. Little Italy. The fish markets, restaurants, supermarkets, bodegas... be friendly! Shake hands! Cough and wipe your nose and handle the fruit! ... Well kids, it's going to get right sporting in these parts. (Which Clancy novel was that? "Executive Orders", I think?)

I live in suburbia now. We have a bit of victuals put back for rainy days. Enough? Hard to say. How long are we really talking? A week? Three? Ten? I don't care how big your pantry is, at some point you will reach the back of it. What then? Is the outbreak burned out? Is society still standing?

It's been a while since I read "The Stand" ... but at one point in the book, King spends a few pages rattling off the people who survived Captain Tripps ... and then died for any number of other causes. Falling down a set of stairs. Malfunctioning gun. Simple murder. And on and on.

There is a definite point where Society will stop. I've seen several reports that nurses at Texas Health Presbyterian-Dallas have been calling out in record numbers ... but haven't seen links to credible sources, either.

What happens when:
- all the trash men call out? The trash piles up, vermin multiply, and spread other diseases.
- all the linemen call out? The lights go out. In early winter.
- all the cops/firemen call out?
- all the delivery drivers/over-the-road truckers?

It doesn't have to be ALL, either. It only has to be enough to prevent the work from getting done. If three linemen show up, they can probably fix one line at a time... and when we have an early-winter ice storm, guess what? You're in for a cold and dark few months.


Going off on a tangent (which I'm good at), there's a few reasons people are Seriously Spooked about ebola. I've heard from various places and people with Letters After Their Name that I should be "more worried about the flu". More likely to $UnlikelyEvent. And so forth.

And you know what? They're not entirely wrong. I am indeed more likely to catch the flu than ebola - even though I've had a flu shot. Influenza is nothing to kid around with. It's highly transmissible, and a century ago it killed a whole lot of people. CDC treats influenza as a Biosafety Level 3 bug. ("... can cause severe to fatal disease in humans but for which treatments exist."

Ebola is a BSL4 bug. Spacesuit and special lab stuff. Severe to fatal disease, high risk of aerosolization, no known treatments. If you catch ebola, they will try to keep you comfortable, and the rest is up to you.

I'm a (relatively) healthy adult male.

If I catch influenza, I will be sick for a couple weeks. I'll have a runny nose, high fever, GIs, aches and pains and chills... I may wish I was dead. But the odds of me actually dying are pretty darn small.

If I catch ebola, I will be very sick for a couple weeks. I'll have a runny nose, high fever, GIs, aches and pains and chills... and petechiae, and hemorrhage in other fun places. I may wish I was dead ... and I'll have a pretty good chance of that wish being granted as my body's major systems shut down.

Am I worried about the flu? Sure, in the, "I just started a new job and don't want to be That Guy," sort of way.

Am I worried about ebola? You're damn right. Because our government can't find its ass with two hands and a flashlight, hospitals are making it up as they go along, and even if we cut the fatality rate in HALF thanks to first-world medicine, ONE IN THREE PEOPLE WHO CATCH IT WILL DIE.

And don't forget, we're right at the edge of the headlong dive into cold-and-flu season. Is that little ache behind your eyes just an early cold, or did you pick up something extra at the airport?

Which brings me to my final point:
If you're sick, stay the fuck home.


Anonymous said...

Yeah I agree. I don't know if Ebola can spread widely, on common surfaces, but I don't know that it can't, either. And the Govt/CDC/WHO are not reassuring, at all. I don't think they know either, or they are not saying. As you noted, it sure would be easy to spread the virus in a city.
Watch the movie Contagion, about a virus spreading worldwide, as I recall it was picked up by one traveller who did not know she was sick.
I'm gonna go count my supplies now....
mrs. doubletrouble

Jennifer said...

Honestly, these couple of cases don't scare me too much. Concern, sure. But what about if/when ebola shows up in Mexico? Our porous border couldn't keep the infected out. And if a couple of dozen cases came in? What then? How many would delay treatment just to cross our border?

ZerCool said...

Jennifer nails it in one.

If a coyote brings a handful (like, say, a family of six) across who are infected but asymptomatic, they hunker down in the barrio in El Paso/Nogales/San Diego for a few days ... and then start getting symptomatic?

How long before they decide, "to hell with the law, Little Juan needs a doctor"? How many people in a tight-quarters neighborhood/family are now exposed - and not just the incidental "airplane" exposure, but shared living quarters etc?

It will not take much at all for this to spiral. The grasp we have is tenuous at best, and Nero fiddles.

Geodkyt said...

Yup. The Central/South American/Mexican outbreak scenario scares me more.

You get an outbreak in, say, Mexico City (or any large Mexican city), and it's Katy Bar the Door.

Note, it also keeps the SOUTHCOM commander up at night.

Onsies and Twosies coming in through the airport are much less of a threat than two dozen individual "Patient Zeros" popping up in US cities, fully symptomatic, spreading it through illegal immigrant communities.