As an epidemiologist i have to confess to finding an emerging pandemic quite a fascinating occourrence. However as a planet member, I know that the destruction which a virus can wreak on the population is devastating.
The emergence of any zoonosis is a worying thing. The transfer of a virus from one species to another is quite a rare event and flus are particularly problematic as they mutate very quickly, making treatment tricky. By the time the scientists have developed a vaccine for one flu strain, its mutated to another and being a socially transferred illness, it spreads quickly. So flu shots are rarely beneficial unless youre a medico in a hospital and get exposed to many strains at an intensive level.
So when the Queensland Chief Medical Officer yesterday advised members of that state to start stockpiling food and was promptly contradicted by the Federal Health Minister i wondered what was going on, thinking that some 'other' pressure must have been at work to make Ms Roxon object to such a simple suggestion.
I came upon an interesting article from the food industry which i believe explained MS Roxons 'dont panic' response. This article on food supply shows that Australias urban food supply is one of the most vulnerable in the world. Our reliance upon 2 big guns in food distribution who at best are shown to have only 3 days supply on their shelves, without panic purchasing, and 80% of Aussies get all their food from these distributors. I found this incredible and rather worrysome.
Another article which was very interesting from the Medical Journal of Australia was 'the food lifeboat developed by Sydney University which details energy requirements and energy allowances for general non perishable foodstuff which we should all have in stock in case of a major disaster of any kind. The biggest danger is probably panic buying if you rely on supermarket food! Its an easy to follow read and really quite interesting.
Now Im not one to run around shouting 'the sky is falling' and I think the international response to this emerging flu strain has been incredibly efficient and well co-ordinated and I dont actually percieve a level 6 pandemic being declared due to the diseases timeline. However i am relieved to know that we have just over 2 months food stock in the pantry, just as a matter of intellectual and practical interest.