Communion Of Dreams

You really gotta wonder.
April 29, 2008, 10:29 am
Filed under: Flu, General Musings, Pandemic, Predictions, Preparedness, Press, Science, Society, Writing stuff

Communion of Dreams is set in a post-pandemic world, some 40 years after a new flu strain has caused massive death and global disruption.

For the most part, people never really think about the flu or any other virus presenting much of a threat. Partially, this is due to not wanting to think about such things as death. Partially, it is because there really isn’t much in the way of treatment for most viral diseases. As a result, sometimes it is difficult to get much information in the news, unless you really work at it. A good example of this is the recent outbreak of EV71 in China – my wife caught a brief mention of it on the BBC news, told me. I had to really hunt around to find this:

Mass intestinal virus infection up to 1,520, kills 20

HEFEI — A lethal outbreak of intestinal virus in Fuyang City in east China’s Anhui Province has killed 20 children and befallen 1,500 others, the provincial health department said on Tuesday.

Du Changzhi, Anhui Provincial Health Department deputy chief, said the virus, known as enterovirus 71, or EV71, had altogether sickened 1,520 children, claiming 20 lives by Tuesday morning.

Of the sick, 585 had recovered thus far. At present, 412 sick children have remained in hospital for further medical observation. Of the total, 26 are seriously ill.

The Wall Street Journal did have this:

China Suffers HFMD Outbreak
Common Illness Catches Attention Of Global Officials

HONG KONG — A deadly outbreak in eastern China of a common childhood illness that rarely kills people has caught the attention of international health officials.

The outbreak of hand, foot and mouth disease, or HFMD, has killed 20 children in Fuyang, a city in eastern Anhui province, and has affected some 1,200 children altogether, according to the Anhui provincial health department. Of those cases, 341 children are still in the hospital.

A report by the state-run Xinhua news agency late Sunday evening said the outbreak began in early March and cited the city’s health department as confirming that the disease was caused by enterovirus-71, one of several viruses that can cause HFMD.

* * *

China’s Health Minister Chen Zhu visited Fuyang on Saturday, according to the Xinhua report. Chinese health officials at the local level in the past have sometimes played down disease outbreaks early on, only to be caught off guard later.

Indeed. There have been a number of such problems with reporting outbreaks in China, as we saw with the SARS virus in 2003. What this means is that a new virus can get established before anyone really knows what is going on. And that could be really catastrophic in terms of implementing public-health plans to limit the spread of any major new disease.

[Major Spoilers Ahead.]

At the end of Communion, I reveal that the new engineered flu virus which has been released comes from China. I did this for this reason – to draw attention to this very real problem. It’s bad enough that some virus could pop up just about anywhere where there is very little public health infrastructure, and so be missed. That a threat could come, and be intentionally ignored, is really dangerous. You really gotta wonder just what people are thinking when they do this.

Just as you really gotta wonder why such things are not covered in the news, rather than the latest celebrity gossip or outrage.

Jim Downey

3 Comments so far
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Just as you really gotta wonder why such things are not covered in the news, rather than the latest celebrity gossip or outrage.

Well … no demand. And it’s confusing, there isn’t, comes from a place where the news is heavily controlled. It’s also happening far away and (being honest) the consumers of the news don’t know anyone in Nowhere China.

I suspect if this happened in Detroit, Oregon, we’d see something on the news – but only because it’s close to home, there are competing news outlets and it’s only a 90 minute drive from Salem.

Comment by bdunbar

Oh – off topic but .. John Ringo is publishing a new book called ‘The Last Centurion’. A What-If we had a bird flu pandemic plus a Little Ice Age _and_ the President made all the wrong choices to handle the crises.

First nine chapters are at Baen’s Libarary. I’m not sure if Ringo is your cup of tea but this one is pretty good.

Comment by bdunbar

Brian, I think that you’re right about the basic mindset of “well, that’s so far away!” – even though in this era of very common transcontinental travel that doesn’t really matter much. The 1917 flu pandemic was brought home by soldiers returning from Europe, after all.

Thanks for the heads-up about the new Ringo book. Not familiar with his stuff – may need to check it out!

Jim D.

Comment by Communion of Dreams

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