Swine flu, SARS and The Stand

I’ve been hearing lots of grumblings about swine flu and the overblown response to it.

Some blame it on the media. Some blame it on Obama.

I’m blaming it on SARS. I keep thinking about a floor plan that a researcher put up on a Powerpoint slide back in 2003, when SARS quickly spread from the Guangdong province of China to infect more than 8,000 people in 37 countries, killing 810 in a matter of weeks. I was sitting in a Babson classroom, along with other members of the Blue Cross/Blue Shield Health Coverage Fellowship, listening to the man describe how scientists tracked the spread of the disease.

The hotel was in Kowloon and was the temporary home of eight people who contracted the disease during their stay. They were all on the same floor. They all used the same elevator. Aside from that, they had no physical contact — the disease hopped from room to room, spread through causal contact in the elevator, perhaps through the air conditioning. The travelers then dispersed to points around the world — Canada, Singapore, Hong Kong, Vietnam — inflecting others along the way.

SARS was considered a near pandemic — pandemic is the emergence of a disease new to the population that spreads easily among humans. Swine flu, or as the World Health Organization is calling it now, “influenza A (H1N1)” (nice try, guys, but it’s not as catchy as “swine flu” and doesn’t lend itself to cute pictures of a girl kissing a pig passed around via email), has now reached pandemic status.

Why should we care about another strain of the flu when the flu comes around every year?

“Let me remind you. New diseases are, by definition, poorly understood,” Dr. Margaret Chan, WHO director-general said in a press conference this week. “Influenza viruses are notorious for their rapid mutation and unpredictable behaviour.”

We have WHO exactly for this reason. But back to Chan:

The biggest question, right now, is this: how severe will the pandemic be, especially now at the start?

It is possible that the full clinical spectrum of this disease goes from mild illness to severe disease. We need to continue to monitor the evolution of the situation to get the specific information and data we need to answer this question.

From past experience, we also know that influenza may cause mild disease in affluent countries, but more severe disease, with higher mortality, in developing countries.

On a lighter note, I’m still getting Tweets from what now appears to be the entire cast of Stephen King’s “The Stand” on Twitter and I’ve picked up the giant book again. Great read.  My post on the matter appears to be under discussion on what I believe to be a Finnish message board, judging by my traffic.

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8 thoughts on “Swine flu, SARS and The Stand

  1. Of course! I have it in hardcover. Right now, I’m up to the part where Larry Underwood has come home after blowing his “Baby, Can You Dig Your Man?” money on the neverending party. I think they’re just about to take Stu Redman and the rest of Arnette away to contain the disease.

  2. Oh, man. The Holland Tunnel scene. I loved the book, read it before I saw the mini-series and that chapter was fodder for nightmares! I’m going to take a bicycle to Denver. M-O-O-N, that spells Swine Flu. . .

  3. The minseries was 15 years ago. You want to know why I know that? Today is my 15th wedding anniversary and we watched part of the miniseries (which my mom was taping for us back home) while we were on our honeymoon.

    THAT’S how much I love that book. M-O-O-N, love it.

  4. M-O-O-N, Happy 15th Anniversary! Mother Abigail smiles upon your wedded bliss! Glen Bateman really likes your blog, it appears that Kojak told him about it. . . !

  5. Loved ‘The Stand’ and all of Steven Kings’ work. All of this chatter makes me want to pick up my hard copy and read it again. I think I will. The mini-series (As well as most movies/TV shows of Kings’ work) Sucked. You have to read the book.

    BTW: The made-for-TV version of Steven Kings’ “IT” was the worst travesty ever produced. One of the best novels ever, put to film by a bunch of washed-up has-been prime-time TV stars. Ughhh.

    I digress…

  6. “It” was a terrible movie. Do they even do mini-series anymore?

    I think probably the best King adaptations were “Carrie” (the movie hasn’t aged well) and “Misery.” I didn’t think they could mess up the movie for “The Stand,” until they cast Molly Ringwald and Rob Lowe (Gary Sinise was rather perfect, though). Also, Laura San Giacomo as Nadine? Really?

    Possibly “The Stand” is a book that’s completely uncastable — everyone has their own interpretations of what the characters look like and unfilmable — you have to cut something with a book that long, but you’d probably end up cutting someone’s favorite scene.

  7. trying to find the house that Glen Bateman ( Ray Walston) was used in the tv movie The Stand

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