Thursday, September 22, 2011

A Contagious Blog

Having loved the movie "Outbreak," I had to go see Contagion. I was hoping it was going to bring as much intensity as "Traffic." It didn't reach that level. This is not to say it was a bad movie. It was a fairly realistic portrayal of what could happen with an outbreak of a global pandemic.

I felt the most compelling pieces were about who gets what first. We will surely have to ration in a situation like this. Who should get the vaccine or treatment first? Of course, we don't think about rationing in our current health system, even though we do it all the time. Who gets cancer treatment first? Probably the rich insured patients. But not many people are up in arms over this. Things will be different when massive amounts of people are dying daily.

Another lesson of the movie is that most of these emerging viruses are likely to come from humans being close to dead animals. We can do a lot to assure a non-infectious animal. However, even the USDA does not have enough animal inspectors, and Republicans are currently trying to cut food safety initiatives. Compare this to other countries, where there are even less regulations in food preparation. Animal agriculture will continue to create risks for humans in many ways. Kind of makes me want to continue to the call for more people to eat less meat. If you do eat meat, know exactly where it came from. (I.e. buy it yourself from a local farmer.)

The movie also remind us about preparation. Everyone procrastinates this. If we were actually prepared, there would be no rush to the grocery stores last minute. Ready.gov has some good examples of what you need. If you are a camper, you might have many of the supplies already: a stove, freeze-dried food, and a lantern. If you are not a camper, get started! Everyone should remember to get a few jugs of water and leave them in a closet.

The biggest thing we can do to get prepared for these things, is to get vaccinated for things we know about. Influenza kills people. Last year it killed young people. I see too many patients that are afraid of getting the flu shot. I've heard, "It gives you the flu," over and over again. It does not give you the flu. It can't. Some people get an immune response to the vaccine which makes them feel under the weather for a day. For most people, this is tolerable. Consider the other option: dying. It happens. Get your flu shot!!

Most of all, this movie reminds us how critical our public health departments are to our health. We forget about them. But everyday they are investigating new viruses, food poisonings, and poor sanitary conditions. The current climate talks about defunding all governments institutions. This is clearly not the smart thing to do.
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