Planet Ark MANILA - A few people in a poor farming village come
down with what they think is a bad case of winter flu and try to sweat it out without calling for medical treatment that they can barely afford. Weeks
later, millions are infected and markets are crashing as the first human avian flu pandemic races around the world. It is the scenario that health
officials are dreading as Asia makes only patchy progress in plans for dealing with an outbreak, held back mostly by a lack of resources.
The potential Avian Bird Flu or H5N1 pandemic is already raising questions and splitting the dived between rich and poor daily. The moral implications
of the outbreak are beginning to weigh heavily even before any pandemic has actually occured.
In Asia questions are being asked and scenarios are being drawn of the potential spread of the disease by the poor. Too poor to seek medical
treatment and too poor to afford medications, it is believed that this economic issue will compound sevely the spread of the disease.
In other areas, the poor often sustain themselves by self sufficiency which includes breeding of poultry for food products. In Asia those food
products are often fatal in the case of H5N1. Customs prevail where raw products are used and a lack of education exists.
It is the poor and uneducated unfortunately, who for thousands of years have undergone these practises that will help turn the disease into a
pandemic. So far other than Nurses taking care of patients with the illness, the majority of the fatalities have been occured by poor villagers.
These villagers cannot afford the medications required to help the symptoms and perhaps produce a non fatal outcome. The poor are unlikley to seek
medical help and are more likely to rely on the assistance of family and neighbours until it is perhaps too late.
Then the situation grows. The disease left unchecked until too late will spread quicker amongst the human popualtion. Those who realise this event has
the possibility to occur will, once it gets to a certain point in the chain, start to fear the villagers and what their way of life is bringing to the
region. Death and disease, the greatest panic.
Will the people start taking matters into their own hands during an outbreak and begin burning villagers to obliterate the way of life?
It is not just this area that the rich - poor divide will crack wide open. In countries such as our own the cracks will turn into deep rivers of
If a pandemic does hit before the world is fully "vaccinated" there will be issue over the care and cost. There are limited hospital beds. Will it
be a case of helping everyone? I doubt it.
Vaccination - First cab off the rank will be the politicians. Then the emergency workers and medical teams. I would say their families would be thrown
in for good measure. By this time the rich have bought their shots with cold hard cash. Golf partners with your local GP would do wonders for a
Next would be the government employees and those other's in essential services. Doctors surgeries would be full, even before the pandemic reached
your area. Medication would be run out of supply before it hits in the panic and rush. Only the rich could buy their way in.
The government could make some kind of peace consession and do a ballot for the general public for some of the vaccines but it would more likely be on
a need basis. The people needed to keep the country moving would be vaccinated first.
The poor workers and the welfare system wouldn't get a look in and even if they did they could not afford it. The medication has no discounts and to
fully protect a family of four in this early stage with the current medications would cost around $1000 or more US.
Then there is the issue of treatment after it hits. With those doctors and hospital beds. Like the aftermath of Katrina, the poor and infirm will be
left behind. Selective population control.
The WHO estimates that a full-blown pandemic could put two-thirds of a country's work force out of action, raising questions such as how to
maintain transport, policing and food supply.
Then there is the offshoot to the rest of the economy. We have seen in the face of a natural disaster and a bumbled recovery attempt, exactly what can
happen after katrina. This would be magnified thousands of times.
There would not be the rest of the country and world to assist your city in the case of a pandemic because they too would be fighting their own
battles with the disease. There would be no help from elsewhere and no relief. Chaos would break out.
It would probably start by the poor and outraged and further divide the rich and the poor.
The rich can also afford to leave an infected area to keep safe from the illness, another event we saw happening in the process of Katrina. it was the
poor left behind to cope and in the case of a disease pandemic it would be the same.
The economy would collapse fuel and food supplies from place to place would be severly affected. Riots for food would break out, mass useless looting
would occur with violence. It was seen on a realtive small scale really by Katrina. Troops, who would also be vaccinated early would be bought into
areas for control and not relief or help as was also seen after Katrina. It was an example of how the Government would act. Except those internment
camps would turn into extermination camps in the effort to control the spread of the pandemic. You all saw what happened to civil liberties after
katrina, that was a practise run really to a more large scale disaster.
Katrina had some lessons for all of us for the future. What we saw we will see again. What we do and how we prepare for it is the key. People who were
not prepared for Katrina or who brushed her off as insignificance faced natures wrath in her most destructive form. Preparation cannot occur last
minute. Preparation must be made in advance. Scenarios to be run and issues fixed before they actually occur.
In this case the rich and poor divide closes. The rich and poor can equally be not prepared in advance but the rich will have the advantage once they
realise preparation must take place.
But in the aftermath of a bird flu pandemic, as in the aftermath of Katrina, the rich versus poor divide will be split wide open with an ocean
dividing the two.
[edit on 14-9-2005 by Mayet]