One of the prevalent theories surrounding the apocalypse is a worldwide outbreak of an infectious disease. Since Europe was knocked to its knees during the Bubonic Plague and the United States was hit by the Spanish Flu, we have feared another disaster based on an epidemic. With the increase of vaccinations, it is apparent that we are trying to find some way to control something that might be inevitable. It is believed that the next war will be fought with biological weapons. As we learned with infected blankets and Columbus coming to the New World, without the proper immunities, an epidemic could completely decimate the world population. With the increase of travel, it is easier to spread infectious diseases; thus, making it easier to start a pandemic.
Here’s the most frightening thing: flu researchers say it isn’t a matter of if we will have a pandemic, but when.
The third family on an episode of Doomsday Preppers was very concerned with the possibility of biological warfare using smallpox. The smallpox virus has an incubation period of twelve days. The signs and symptoms of the virus are too numerous and disturbing to list here. Let’s just say that it isn’t pretty.
According to the World Health Organization (WHO), smallpox is not a fast moving virus. They say that it spread slower than chickenpox. Further, large outbreaks were uncommon. However, with the ease of travel and the inclination not to stay home when sick, I have to wonder whether this could be true now. From my years in college, it was normal for a student to come to class when they were very ill. Needless to say, campus was an incubator. While I can see parents keeping their children home when sick, a lot of people will still go to work when they are suffering from smallpox.
WHO also states that only two laboratories have the smallpox virus; however, there are many conspiracy theorists that believe this isn’t the case. Even though they firmly stand by their statement of the two laboratories, WHO has been making efforts to prepare on the off chance that the virus could be released.
There is no cure for smallpox, but vaccination can be used very effectively to prevent infection from developing if given during a period of up to four days after a person has been exposed to the virus. This is the strategy that was used to eradicate the disease during the 20th century. New antiviral drugs, that have been developed for other diseases since smallpox was eradicated, may have a role. No studies of their usefulness, or safety, have been conducted on humans exposed to smallpox. (World Health Organization)
The family on Doomsday Preppers had a plan to “bug out” and get to a isolated location. It makes sense to try and separate yourself from the population in case of an outbreak, but I am reminded of The Masque of the Red Death by Poe. Despite his best efforts, Prospero still managed to lock the Red Death into the party, which resulted in all of the party-goers contracting the illness and dying.
What do you think? Is there a high chance of smallpox coming back to bit us in the ass? Will the world end with a global pandemic? What are your theories?
If you want more information, check out The World Health Organization website.