Winter is coming and the possibility of winter storms and influenza epidemics loom. The Doomsday Preppers are ready, are you? Check out this week’s weekly round up and consider getting that flu shot or at least stocking up on chicken soup in your pantry.
Is a Pandemic Inevitable?
In an interview with Time magazine last week, Nathan Wolfe, a National Geographic Emerging Explorer and the founder of the Global Viral Forecasting Initiative, stated that there was a high likelihood of a pandemic similar to the outbreak of the 1918 Spanish flu. He feels that although we should plan on this event occurring, we also need to take into consideration that it will look very different than in 1918 where secondary bacterial infections were the ultimate cause of death in many cases. We are much better prepared to treat bacterial infections today. However, we focus on fast moving viruses when perhaps we should be mindful and watching for phenomena that occurs over years and even decades. HIV is an excellent example of a virus that does not necessary progress rapidly.
In Wolfe’s bio on Nat Geo he explains his interest in the possibility of viral infections that cross over from animals to people. “When I started this work in 1999,” Wolfe recalls, “we were particularly interested in retroviruses because we knew they had the potential to cause devastating pandemics like HIV. But we didn’t have a good idea of the frequency with which they were crossing over from animals to humans. Our results were shocking. We discovered that cross-species transmission wasn’t rare; it was happening on a regular basis. What’s more, the current mechanisms for detecting it were wholly inadequate.”
Wolfe has proved there is much we do not know and have to learn and makes an excellent case for the virus universe being one of the last unexplored frontiers in a talk he gave at TED.
Should the Media Focus More on Planning than on Disasters?
Georgina Vividor, a reporter from El Salvador’s newspaper, El Diario de Hoy questions whether or not the media is playing the most effective and helpful role in their communities when natural disaster occurs. She points to recent positive reporting that was helpful to residents rather than fear-mongering. “All media needs to educate the population so that there are no severe losses to regret,” she says. “Recently, El Salvador has had lightning and electrical storms so there have been a series of articles on what to do and what not to do during the storms.” Vividor felt this was a great example of how proactive and helpful journalists could be. Unfortunately, reporting on preparations for looming disaster does not have the sensationalism that reporting on the after effects of disaster does. Of course, the bigger question is, would a newspaper’s readership be willing to read reports on preparedness? And would they follow through with preparations?
Genetically Engineered Chickens Keep Bird Flu to Themselves
“Bird flu” such as the H5N1 strain of influenza can have a high death rate, but it also seems to be limited to transmission from bird to human. This means that transmission from one human to another is unlikely. However, it also means that working with poultry in a commercial setting can be deadly to anyone who comes in contact with an infected flock. With this understanding, researchers are looking at ways to engineer birds to curb the possibility of transmission. Chickens modified by a team of scientists at the Roslin Institute of the University of Edinburgh, Uk have been able add genetic material to embryos. The chickens that develop that can catch H5N1, but the virus cannot replicate correctly and spread. However, it costs approximately $79,000 to produce a breeding stock of genetically engineered poultry. Not only is the cost prohibitive, but the market is likely to be reluctant to consume animals with genetic tampering.
World Wide Insurance Deficit
Following the Japanese earthquake and tsunami in 2011, only an estimated $35 billion of the $210 billion worth of damage was insured. As natural disasters impact more people in the increasingly densely populated world, the question becomes, “who will pay to rebuild?”
Lloyd’s of London, the world’s largest insurance company estimates that the gap between what is insured and what should be insured is tremendous. A study done by the Centre for Economic and Business Research, shows that last year alone, earthquakes, floods, storms, tsunamis and other natural disasters led to insurance payouts of over $116 billion, but with insurance covering less than a third of the $370 billion economic loss. Lloyd’s estimates that the world may not be able to afford another year like 2011. Doomsday Preppers might point to this as a possible means of financial collapse worldwide.
Whether or not you believe a catastrophe large enough to reshape the United States could occur, it is a great idea to be prepared for localized disaster. Perhaps you could learn a thing or two from Doomsday Preppers. This week you will meet Allen and Franco who are neighbors preparing for a breakdown of the world food system. They have each built their own aquaponic systems, gardens, and greenhouses to create a self-sustainable lifestyle.
Tune in Tuesday at 9PM et/pt and share your thoughts with us on Twitter with #DoomsdayPreppers.