Sickness and Pandemics (Epidemiology)
Sickness is not the Grim Reaper for Halloween
It used to be hard for me to associate sickness with bacteria and viruses and other things too small to see with the eye. It's also hard for me to associate C4 with danger because it looks like clay. Regardless of what anything looks like, if you know that it's dangerous in your head then you can keep yourself safe from it using discipline.
Sickness can be a few different things: It can be viruses, bacteria, poisons, or something that destroys tissue. Ionizing radiation destroys tissue. Cancer destroys tissue. Bacteria destroy a little tissue and release a lot of toxins into your system. Viruses destroy tissue and release toxins into your system. Poisons attack vital metabolic pathways in ways that are still being discovered today. Many organisms are deadly simply by the toxins they excrete.
Mechanics of Spreading Disease
I will assume you already know that touching a doorknob after you sneeze into your hands is the worste thing you can do if you are sick. What I intend to discuss is more your body's response and how evolution has used it for and against you.
SNOT - The universal incubator. Your body evolved it to flush foreign shit out of your sinuses. Viruses evolved to take advantage of this incubator and use it as their primary form of transportation inside the host as well as to other hosts. Think about it: If you didn't have snot, how could a cold virus be transmitted. So suppose you have two strains of cold infecting a different host at the same time. Type A is regular and type B is a new strain that doesn't trigger snot to form in the nose. After a day, type A has been carried from one nostril to the other nostril and down the throat of its host. Type B is still stuck in nostril one. On day two, type A has successfully been transmitted to ten new hosts and increases its hold on the original host while type B is still stuck in nostril one, maybe starting to make an invasion of nostril two. By day five, type A is being shut down by the original host, but has spread to a thousand other hosts while type B will be lucky if it makes its original host sick before its defeated by the hosts immune system.
How to keep snot out of the picture: Open doors with your pinky fingers and your elbows! What are the most common fingers you touch shit with? Your thumb, pointer, and bird, right? How often does your pinky finger touch your mouth? Never. Most bathroom doors these days have push/pull doors, in which case you can open the door without using your thumb/pointer/bird. Use your hip. Use your elbow. Shoulder. Foot. Pinky. Anything but thumb/pointer/bird. My dad even saves his hand towel that he dried his hands with to open the door so that he doesn't actually make contact with the doorknob.
Keep snot out, continued. Another way to halt the spread is to cough into the inside of your elbow. Cover your face as much as possible so you don't spread your saliva and snot to your neighbor. When I was a sophomore in college some bitch behind me in class was sick and coughed the whole class directly onto the back of my head. I felt I was in a pitri dish. Sure enough, next day I was sick. Cover your mouth, preferably not with something that will just put the snot on the doorknob like your hands will.
And remember, a thousand people touch a doorknob a day. One person's snot might not be enough to get the other thousand sick. But if three people are already sick, three people's snot might be enough to get the other thousand sick.
Also, mixing people is incredibly bad for us, good for disease. In '05 I was in Alaska doing hotel work. I got sick 5 times in one summer because when one guest got sick, I got sick. In '06 I was in boot camp with 55 guys in one barracks and we all brought different sicknesses from all around the country. When you got over your own sickness, you had Smith's Special Flu Fuck waiting to get you. I got sick 7 times that summer. Cough drops were going for five dollars per cough drop. A conversation with the doctor would go like so "hey, Doc, I busted up my toe this morning. Can I have a box of cough drops?" or "Yeah I got shot in the arm by my buddy this morning. Can you spare me a cough drop?" I am amazed no one died from disease because when your body is fighting off three different diseases at once, even the common cold can kill you.
Where is the Dutch Boy When You Need Him?
Diseases spread better the denser the population is. Today the world is more densely populated than ever, yet the flu and smallpox are yesterday's news. Because modern medicine finally got the upper hand. What if one disease sneaks through modern medicine and sees a whole population left vulnerable?
Why do you think they say nuclear weapons are now obsolete? Because nukes can kill a few million people these days depending on where it's placed. Biological weapons can kill billions. That's right - BILLIONS.
Here's a scenario: Biological Weapon A kills the host in four days. It is contagious after one day and has a high rate of transmission between hosts. On October 1st, Osama Jr has three vials filled with BWA. One is opened in an airport in Tokyo, another in Chicago, another in London. Day zero, three people are infected, a worker at each airport. Day one, each host is now contagious and infects a hundred people mixed with passengers, coworkers, and people getting off the planes. Day two, those passengers infect other passengers in hundreds of cities. Original hosts still not sick and continues to infect people. Three hundred infected becomes thirty thousand infected and still no sign of illness is seen. Day three, original hosts become sick. Authorities know immediately from the nature of the target host that it was intentional and shut down the airports and send out mass warnings. Too late. Thirty thousand infected become three million worlwide.
In short, within a week the whole population of the world is infected beyond the point of rescue, starting with the most densely populated cities in the world. Seen the movie 12 monkeys? Same exact thing, except no crazy-looking Brad Pitt. It's a very real possibility. It's a flood waiting to happen over the levee and if the little boy pulls out his finger, the floods will come.
One freaky thing about biological weapons is that the diseases already exist. We have engineered the viruses and bacteria needed to cause 12 Monkeys. We created diseases that could wipe out the entire population of mice in a month. Do you honestly think we haven't created diseases that could wipe out humanity? We've even strategically mapped the most vulnerable cities as well as how to infect the most people in the initial infection. How to slip it under the radar so airports don't get shut down. I truly honestly believe we are already on borrowed time. It is not a matter of if. It's a matter of when. And by the time a hundred million Americans die from it, better believe we'll be nuking someone to get even, even if it's the wrong guy.
How to fight it? Well, diseases use population density against us. If you don't want to catch it, get as far away from people as you can or at least to a less densely populated city. Learn to live in the mountains with a tent and a radio. Learn to cough into your elbow and open doors with your pinky fingers. Keep an emergency supply of food/water/toiletries in case you need to isolate yourself. Hell, the CDC already kills livestock that they think might be infected with influenza. Doorknob manufacturers are starting to use copper as their metal of choice because copper kills microbes. Wash your hands often. Wash your face. Don't touch your face unless you're washing it. Stay home from work if you're sick. Pressure your coworkers to stay home if they're sick. Don't send your kids to school sick. Don't send your kids to school if you know sickness is going around. Dissinfect knobs, handles, and keyboards often. Be smart is about all I can say.