HOT TOPIC: Pandemic
Volume 3, Issue 10 - November 12, 2006

"At the beginning of the nineteenth century, Thomas Malthus presented his theory on population growth. In short, he proffered the idea that human population increases at such a geometric proportion, that the natural catastrophes that occur throughout history are the principle mechanism for keeping our growth in check: war, famine, natural disasters and disease. Flying in the face of the age of Romanticism, it was a new way of looking at humankind’s ability to thrive using the earth’s natural resources.

Today Malthus’ theory continues to have relevance, as we face the modern phenomenon of the pandemic. Larger than an epidemic, a pandemic has the ability to spread worldwide as today’s mobile society allows travelers to carry infectious disease to any continent within a day’s time. Since the human immune system requires time to build immunities against new viruses introduced into the population, this can be potentially catastrophic.

Past epidemics which have severely impacted humanity include the typhoid fever outbreak during the Peloponnesian War (430 BC), the European bubonic plague (1300 AD), typhus that wiped out Napoleon’s Grande Armée in Russia (1812) and the Spanish Influenza (1918–1919). In 2006 we are in a period of pandemic alert, in which avian influenza is emerging in Asia, but human-to-human transmission has yet to be documented. Will the bird flu ever breakout as the first pandemic of the twenty-first century? Perhaps. Whether it is that virus or some other unforeseen disease, Ebola, HIV and SARS are all recent examples of how this can take place.

The time to prepare society for an eventual pandemic outbreak is now. From training students good hygiene practices to working as schools and communities to put plans in place for such an event, we should all be discussing the reality of an impending pandemic so that we are prepared when it eventually hits.

This week’s D12 resources offer you a wealth of Web-based materials and information that can help you prepare for this reality, offering ideas and perspective ideal for discussion."

©2005 Walter McKenzie

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