Science fiction movies and novels about the end of mankind often involved viruses. Whether it came from outside Earth, like The Andromeda Strain, or from biological weapons research, in the Resident Evil film franchise, or from a mutated gene-therapy vaccine, in The Omega Man ( from I Am Legend, the 1954 novel and it’s 2007 Will Smith version) these all have dire consequences for mankind. In each of these stories, skilled scientists have been the genesis or the species-saving cure for these unleashed diseases.
Real-world pandemics do not involve people becoming flesh-eating zombies, nor do they involve bioweapons research gone awry (though in truth there have been accidents) . The incidence in Nature of viruses and bacteria that are all-too easily transmitted to human beings should have compelled European and North American Governments to implement and stockpile a response for decades. While disease like Ebola was beyond the capacity of many African nations to respond effectively without assistance, other diseases have their origin in cultural practices in industrial nations. Whether “mad cow” disease which, in humans, is Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease, is suspected from the consumption of infected beef. And then there is some danger to humans who hunt and consume deer meat. Chronic Wasting Disease is a disease that is being studied for its susceptibility to infect other species. In China, various species, including the endangered pangolin (which has a variant of this COVID-19 sars-coronavirus in its tissues) are consumed, used in folk remedies and potions, or through unsanitary practices cross over into humans.
The response to past pandemics from the 1917 global Spanish Influenza, to the 2003 SARS outbreak in Asia have often been discussed. The lessons of SARS were discussed at conferences in 2008, 2011, and as late as 2019 (National Institute of Health, and the World Health Organization), but little implementation of recommendations have been done. But there is nothing quite so motivational as those whose past experience with SARS -774 dead among 8000 victims – inspired a swift response to COVID-19 when first appearing outside Wuhan, China. Singapore, Taiwan and Hong Kong have experienced few victims from the new pandemic.
Meanwhile, in March, 2020, fear, panic, and individuals hoping to profit from it, in North America are causing shortages in medical supplies to hospitals, and the wholesale “ransacking” of toilet paper, bottled water, food, and cleansers. Nothing stays on store shelves and Amazon and Ebay have been shutting down would-be profiteers demanding 100-fold prices for their stockpiles. While the capacity of this virus to cause panic is demonstrated, early research is indicating that children are not debilitated by the virus. Many adults may be asymptomatic, or only briefly ill. Government action to limit gatherings in large groups may slow the contamination in communities. According to most experts, the shortage in medical testing kits, and the lack of medical resources (in number of specialists and the Intensive Care Unit beds) nationwide for even a possible half-million of the most severely threatened patients – demand efforts many dislike.