Tuesday, 28 April 2009

On Pandemic Paranoia...

Hi all,

The idea that the Swine Flu epidemic in Mexico will turn into a worldwide pandemic is not totally unfounded. The fear that it will is unfounded and unhelpful.

Now, why should you listen to my take on the current pandemic threat? Well, for one thing, I'm up to my neck involved in preparing for it. You see, part of Warriorship - for me personally, at any rate - is knowing all about and planning for contingencies.

Actually, I'm rather well trained in the whole field of emergency management, including pandemic planning, and I spend part of my time teaching this stuff and building emergency response plans for organizations. As a matter of fact, I've been hired to produce a pandemic plan for an organization later this year (though something tells me they may want a draft a little sooner ;-)

Your worst enemy in any emergency is fear. Fear is a funny thing. The more you deny it, suppress it and refuse to face it, the more it controls you. And fear is an uncomfortable feeling, so we always tend to suppress it. The Warrior approach is to acknowledge your fear, stay present to it and discover that it's not really such a big monster after all. It's a bit of a cosmic joke, really.

Will the current epidemic turn into a catastrophic pandemic? I don't know the answer to that. What I do know (and what you probably don't) is this: we're FAR better prepared to meet a threat like this than at any time in history.

How so? Whenever there's a big emergency now, including pandemics, there's a whole apparatus throughout all levels of government and including many NGOs that swings into action behind the scenes. Numerous "emergency operations centers" have been activated, pandemic plans pulled off the shelf and supplies readied. The public perception that their government is just bumbling through could not be more mistaken.

Does this mean the politicians and bureaucrats will make the right decisions? Not always. Someone once said the history of the Western world is politicians and bureaucrats doing too little, too late. And there's lots of truth there, of course.

To be fair, these folks are going to have to make some tough calls in the days and weeks ahead. And, in hindsight, some of these decisions won't come out smelling like roses. That's inevitable.

When the SARS outbreak hit Toronto (from Hong Kong) a few years ago, we did a lot of things wrong in our efforts to contain it. And despite the screw-ups, we wrestled SARS to the ground in a matter of weeks.

The fact is, today we have much better early warning, diagnosis, containment measures, command and control, emergency stockpiles, decision-making processes, etc, than we've ever had before. Keep in mind that if this current Swine Flu outbreak were happening 100-150 years ago, you still wouldn't know about it and there wouldn't be any coordinated international response to it that meant anything. It would be free to spread like wild fire. Not so today.

So what should you do? Get informed. There are a zillion good websites to give you the facts and tell you how to prepare yourself, your family and your workplace. Use those resources.

And beware of the mainstream media. The media are not the unbiased purveyors of facts they fancy themselves to be. The media are collectively an interest group. And they love to sell you a product called "fear" because fear sells. Please don't fall for it.

Best wishes,

Dr. Symeon Rodger :-)

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