World Wide Spread of Diseases

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Did you ever read the book “The Stand” by Stephen King? It was about a post epidemic world with lots of biblical implications. The epidemic was a “super flu” that was made by the army and it spread easily all over the world because of mass air travel and a world wide market. The BBC had an article by the WHO that warns of global epidemic risk. And that risk is based on massive air travel by populations all over the world and a world wide market in live animals. I live in Virginia. A Virginia ham is very salty, it is a local thing and we have always been proud of this ham. Then there was recently an article in the local paper about an outbreak of something like foot and mouth disease in Romania. Well, what the heck did that have to do with our hams? Turns out, the hams for Smithfield hams are raised in Romania. Is that weird? As it turns out, not so much. I knew companies in this country outsourced all kinds of things, but it turns out it is more extensive than I would ever have guessed. They can get these poor people to work for pennies a day and make a bundle that way. Aside from a poke in the eye at the abuse of capitalists, this certainly has large implications in the spread of disease. We have already seen a return of resistant forms of TB. And a recent event of one dippy lawyer that went international with his airborne illness (smart enough to pass boards for law but too dumb to understand the word “contagious”). There are other diseases making a come-back because of urbanization and mass travel. Cholera is back. Malaria is back. The hemorrhagic fevers are traveling further. SARS scared enough people but thank heavens, was not as virulent as initially assumed. But, there are outbreaks of flu that mutate and travel quite easily. Given the ease of movement of SARS, this may turn out to be scarier than a Stephen King novel.

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