Saturday, October 4, 2014

Exponential Horror

Ever read Stephen King's The Stand?  (Or watched the mini-series?  The book is way better.) 

It's about the world being wiped out by a superflu that escaped from a government research facility and the subsequent consequences therein (including a god versus satan thing for control of who's left - but that's the last third, and not pertinent for this post). 

Anyway, the beginning of the book (the uncut version, not the original first edition) details how one security guard at a military base transmits this escaped virus to the entire world.  When I first read this book back in the early nineties, I thought the idea was brilliant.

One security guard and his family squeak through the rapidly closing guard fence in their little car.  They make a break for it, headed east from... New Mexico, I think...  and wind up dying in a little town in east Texas where they infect a small group of friends who then infect the entire town.  But it goes further than that. As the original three escape what the guard knows will be a quarantine, they have to stop for gas.  And meals.  And rest. 

You see a little of this in the movie Outbreak.  One infected monkey bites the dock worker who smuggles him out of quarantine and the dock worker gives it to his girlfriend.  They both die horribly, and the virus stops there, but it doesn't because then the monkey gives a different strain of the virus to the pet store owner the dock worker tries to sell her to.  The pet store owner gets sick and goes to the hospital where a lab tech gets it from the guy's blood.  The lab tech goes to the movies and coughs all over everyone there - because by now it's airborne.  Those movie goers pass it along to their friends and families, and soon a whole town has it.

In The Stand, the guard, his wife and child give it to a few people everywhere they stop and those few people give it to more people who give it to more people.  One of them gets on an international flight out of the country and... Well, if I remember correctly this thing had like a 98% mortality rate, so you do the math.

Remember that commercial for shampoo back in the 80s?  One gal loves her shampoo so much, she tells a friend (and the screen splits showing two gals) and they both tell someone (screen splits to 4) and so on and so on until the screen is covered with small splits of people.  It's like that, only on an exponential scale. 

I saw a news report last night where a gentleman said every night a 747 full of people lands in JFK airport from Liberia.  A 747 carries just under 500 people.  Simple scenario (allowing for simple math calculations), 100 people carrying a virus infect 10 people each during their contagious stage.  Those 1000 people infect 10 people each. And so on and so on.  In those two more so ons, 1 million people are infected.  In a relatively short time.

In another news report, a gentleman from the CDC said closing the borders would not stop the danger to US citizens from the spread of Ebola.  Really?  Well, it might not, but it sure would go a long way toward retarding the progress.  One lone sick man walking across the border in the middle of nowhere versus 500 people dropping into NYC every night.  I'll take my chances with the one versus the 500. 

Except it's not me taking my chances.  It's a group of people more concerned with looking politically correct than with the health and welfare of the people they're supposed to protect.  They're taking their chances with my life.  And yours.  And our kids'.

I really hope Purell can kill Ebola virus on the shopping cart at Walmart.  But what about that can of corn you put in your basket that the gal whose boyfriend just got back from Liberia grabbed and then put back because she didn't want corn that day?  Or the bag of candy bars the kid sneezed on whose classmate's uncle slept with a woman who'd just gotten home from an infected nation? 

Kinda makes me glad I don't live in a populated area, but then again, who knows where anyone has been before they stopped at my favorite thrift store out on the highway?

As an aside, I'm guessing I'm not the only person out there who's concerned.  When I went to Google for research on this post, I typed in 'seating cap' and the first suggested autofill was 'seating capacity for a 747'.  Guess I wasn't the only one who saw that report last night.

Anyway, stay safe out there, my friends, and keep the Purell handy - just in case.

Addendum: I am not a germaphobe, I'm not hiding in my bunker with a thousand cans of Dinty Moore Beef Stew, and I'm really not going around covering everything in Purell. I'm still at the point where I'll take my chances on the shopping carts and other things in public.  But to say I'm not concerned with the recent events and the seeming clusterfuck that is our government's attempt to protect our health and welfare would be lying.  Personally, I don't want to die because someone else fucked up. 

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