Tuesday, February 21, 2006


I heard something on NPR this weekend about rising infectious diseases and how that might change our lives.
Surprisingly, it wasn't about how, y'know, getting infections and dying might change our lives.
The guest talked about how we'd have to consider if we wanted to go swimming in a particular pond, for example. Apparently, when he was growing up, his parents kept him from swimming for fear of polio.
And, certainly, I'd agree with him. We are so used to getting sick, getting some medicine, and getting better that we are unprepared for dealing with preventing sickness. Doctors, for example, recommend a fairly annoying process for washing your hands in a public bathroom:
1) wash your hands for 30 seconds (longer than you think it is)
2) do not turn the water off
3) take a paper towel and dry your hands thoroughly.
4) keep the towel, and use it to turn off the water
5) keep the towel, and use it to open the door to leave.

I have no idea what to do with the towel then.
And I can't imagine anyone cares.

What I was thinking, though, was that we'll have to develop different attitudes towards medical care.
If serious diseases are on the rise, does it not follow that, sometimes, decisions will have to be made regarding who gets what care?
Eventually, we'll have to start weighing costs and benefits as resources become more strained. Should 15 'units of healthcare' be spent on a person who probably won't live or should 15 people with decent chances of recovery each get 1 unit?
If there's ever another flu pandemic, this will almost certainly become an issue.
50 million people, in 1918.
50 million people and now we are even closer together.
And now we transmit much faster.
What will it take?


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