When I was 13, I read a novel titled Earth Abides, by George R. Stewart. It tells a science fiction story about the fall of civilization from a deadly disease and its rebirth. After reading it, I believed I knew for certain what the highest pandemic level would be like. It described how the few survivors of earth slowly adapted to their new environment.
Then I saw the movie The Last Man on Earth, starring Vincent Price. In the movie, a deadly plague killed nearly everyone on earth, then turned them into mindless zombies. This, I reasoned, is what the highest pandemic level must be like. One man left on earth was to fight off the evil walking dead.
Then, I saw the movie, The Omega Man, with Charlton Heston. His character believed he was the last man on earth as a biological war wiped out the rest of humanity. He was forced to kill the plague-indiced, albino, homicidal mutants walking the earth. After seeing that, I was certain about how mass epidemics might be like.
Will Smith’s character helped a little in I Am Legend. In that movie, a genetically altered measles virus killed most of humanity. My imagination was forever expanding on the possible scenarios of a deadly epidemic.
As you may have anticipated, my science fiction-laden mind became somewhat disappointed when I heard that we are currently in the highest phase level pandemic the World Health Organization can issue — the dreaded level 6 — because of the H1N1 Swine Flu virus. “Where are all the albino zombies?”, I uttered. “This can’t be it,” I shuttered. “What happened to phase level 7, 8, 9 and 10?” To my utter disappointment, it only goes to 6.
Pandemic Phase 6 level, according to the W.H.O., is human to human transmission of an animal or human-animal influenza reassortant virus able to sustain community-level outbreaks in multiple countries. W.H.O. leaves us with just a simple, somewhat bland definition, if it wasn’t for the words “reassortant virus.” Also, did you notice they didn’t use the words “albino zombies” in their definition?
Sometimes it is better to have a little fun when the stress level rises. We are in a national emergency concerning the level 6 pandemic, but my mind can conjure up a more interesting scenario. Can you imagine certain after effects of contacting the viral mixture of the bird, swine, and human influenza viruses. Pigs may begin to fly and birds may begin to oink. Humans may accrue a penchant for slopping around in the mud, all day — well, some do already. It would make for a pretty good science fiction movie.
In the near future, we may be asked to make certain choices about the H1N1 Swine Flu vaccinations. Hopefully, our freedom of choice will persist throughout this current crisis. We may have to make choices for ourselves and our families that may affect us long after the crisis ends. It would be wise to stay informed about the new viral strain and the vaccinations so that our choices will incur beneficial outcomes for us all. Fear and hysteria about the pandemic are totally unnecessary. The anxiety could actually be more harmful than the virus. If you really wanted to be afraid, read a good horror or science fiction book. Earth Abides will keep you involved for a time.