Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Spread

Though I didn't actually finish my degree, I completed almost an entire master's program in public health. A project is all that keeps me from claiming it fully, and those three units will forever be in the way. My emphasis was in public health management, but I am fascinated by most of the specializations in the field. Of all the classes I took, I really enjoyed epidemiology the most.

The classes in epidemiology taught me a lot about things that most people don't want to know about. The things that ordinary people in a civilized society don't want to deal with, don't want to think about. Food borne illnesses, sexually transmitted diseases, air borne viruses, epidemics. These things might seem boring to some people. To me, they are fascinating.

When the WHO first started to express concern about the Swine Flu, my interest was piqued. I had an feeling, from the first mention of it, that this one was going to reach pandemic levels. The CDC and WHO were quick to employ containment efforts, and the initial outbreaks did not seem as bad as the public feared. Not too many people died in those first weeks, and in general, the public was irritated by the perceived overreaction. The problem is that it's not over.

Swine flu, since renamed H1N1, is still making it's way around the globe. Still infiltrating every city and town. It's here in Longmont. And it's still going. In some ways, I am dreading the start of the school year. I have a feeling that it will run rampant through the schools, and ours is no exception.

It's a strain of the influenza virus that hasn't been seen in human populations before this. We have no natural immunities to it. No one has had it before, no one has built up a defense to it. The attempts at creating a vaccine for it are in large part, slow and unproductive.

Perhaps it is the danger in knowing too much about how diseases spread, and how we fight them, not as individuals, but as societies, that scares me. The complacency, the shrugging it off bothers me. There are people here in town, those who know that they have been exposed and are presenting symptoms, that still insist on going about their normal activities. They could be spreading it. They probably are spreading it.

Boost your immune systems, my friends. You might be needing it.

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