When most people think about the prospect of a severe pandemic visiting their neck of the woods, it is the fear of becoming infected that scares them. In the case of a flu strain that kills as efficiently as the one that circled the world in 1918, the prospect is hardly a comforting one. In the case of blue-collar workers, it is believed that in some U.S. communities the mortality rate for those infected was as high as 10 percent. In more epidemiology isolated communities, like the Inuit Eskimo tribes of Alaska, the mortality rate reached 90 percent and virtually wiped those communities off the map.
Less widely appreciated is that a pandemic need not even reach your door in order to be able to kill you or a family member. During a severe pandemic, you could literally starve to death while never having come in close contact with the virus. This is just one of the conclusions I reached after reading Survive Pandemic Flu, which will have you rethinking just how much you really understand about your own place in the world. Because it turns out that we are a lot more delicately positioned than we like to believe.
Here is what I am talking about. Get up from your chair and head to the kitchen and make a quick inventory of the amount of food you have. How long would it last you if you discovered tomorrow that the shelves would be empty in the stores where you shop? Most retailers today work on a “just in time” model – they stock just enough product to keep the shelves full for a few days and restock just as frequently as new shipments come in. Nobody stores in quantity any more because their margins are too thin to accommodate the extra expense. So any disruption to the fulfillment line means rapid onset of delivery problems, to stores, to customers, to you and your family.
In the event of a national crisis that should knock out truck drivers – and this could simply be due to fear that once they get in their trucks and embark on a long haul they will not be available if a family member falls gravely ill during a pandemic – the panic sweeping of inventory by consumers could easily clear store shelves in as little as 24 hours, leaving whatever you have in your cupboards as the only food and water you may be able to get your hands on for weeks.
Your neighbors will be facing the exact same dilemma, so don’t bother looking to them to bail you out. Nor should you expect the government to come rushing in with supplies to help you. That kind of thing happens only during local emergencies, not the kind of nation-wide threat we are talking about here where *everyone* is experiencing the same kind of disruptions to their normal existence.
If you are lucky enough to have a huge stockpile of food in your home – enough to get you through the crisis with some rationing – you will not want to advertise the fact. If your neighbor is faced with the option of either watching his family starve to death or forcibly take food and water from you to make sure that does not happen, well, your life may be threatened yet again.