Wednesday, April 29, 2009

...and This Little Piggy Got Sick

Unless you have been under a rock this week, you are aware that there has been a global outbreak of swine flu. This is certainly unsettling news.  Fears of global pandemic have been rising since the outbreak of avian flu in Southeast Asia earlier this decade.

Actually the history of global epidemics is much longer, as the so called "Spanish Flu" killed more than 20 million people in 1918, at least double the amount of deaths from World War I.

It is not really news that disease is mutating between pigs, birds, dogs, monkeys, people, etc..  This has been happening continuously over the history of life on earth. (Ever heard of bubonic plague, small pox, Ebola, .....) Obviously, what is most concerning now is how quickly we travel across the globe, which means these mutated germs have a chance to travel right along with us.  Will this ultimately lead to some global pandemic that makes the Spanish Flu look like just a bad cold?  Only time will tell.

However,technology is allowing us to understand and monitor infectious diseases better now than ever. Check out these web sites:

The Internet is full of this stuff.  Just Google "influenza". This doesn't even include the peer-to-peer communication that is now available.  Doctors in Germany are able to test whether the flu their patients have is the same strain as the swine flu in Mexico. This is happening only days after the virus was discovered.  We humans have gotten pretty smart, which gives us an edge over our infectious enemies.

We live in the age of technology, whether we like it or not.  It is fascinating to see just how technology is affecting one of the great struggles of human history: that of us versus germs.

P.S. Here's some good news: