A U.S. Death and the Morals of Epidemic

As I’m sure most of you have heard by now, the U.S. has had its first Swine Flu related death. A 23 month old toddler. It’s terrifying and sad, and now we have to wait and see if it gets much worse than this.

In other news, I’m giving a very brief presentation today in Art and Catastrophe about Defoe’s Journal of the Plague Year and his concern with human behavior in epidemic. Quite and interesting time to be writing this paper, let me tell you.

Here are a few of the things Defoe worries about….and I wonder if we will have to worry about them too:

–if there is a higher being responsible, punishing us for our wicked, immoral behavior. I think you all know by now my thoughts on this, but it is worth mentioning. it was a much more popular belief in Defoe’s time (that the plague was a punishment for sin <and sin itself is a disease…but I digress>) — but I wonder if there are still those out there that hold with this. Why not? If the gays caused 9/11…why not the plague?

–self-preservation and abandonment. the two go hand in hand and can not be separated. at what point does self-preservation take over? take over to the point of leaving loved ones in order to save oneself? as Defoe says, “the best physic against the plague is to run away from it”

–the dilemma (a dilemma which does not really occur in non-plague related catastrophe literature) of what I have lovingly termed (hijacked from Major Henry West in 28 Days Later) “people killing people” — what Defoe calls “in the nature of the disease that it impresses everyone the is seized upon by it with a kind of rage, and a hatred against their own kind” — a desire to spread the illness.

BUT whether the desire to spread is there or not, we have to remind ourselves that due to the nature of disease it is all just “people killing people”—right? One person becomes infected, they spread it to five people, those five people spread it to five more people each…..they all die from it. Yes, it is the contagion that kills, but we CAN NOT over look the physical act of one human passing the disease to another. Our need for society and physical closeness with other humans is what ultimately brings our downfall.

For more thoughts on this I recommend the “People Killing People” chapter of The Contagious Narrative PDF.


[now…off to present this thing that i just pulled out of my butt this morning! thank you…thank you…….]


Swine Flu Roundup

Hi! I’m Reed.

* I’ve spent the past two days looking at the Twitter Search page for swine flu and #swineflu and I’m thoroughly enjoying the ignorance of diseases displayed by the Tweeple.



* These graphs are from Daily Kos, of all places:

This is where we were on Saturday:


This is where we were on Monday:


So that little line moves a few pixels to the right and the world stops turning for 80% of the morons on the Internets.  FLYING PIG MEXIFLU!!!  OMGZ!!!!!11!  I IS BECOMES DEATH DESTROYER OF SWINEZ!!!1!!!1!!one!!!  amidoinitrite??

*Here are some fun articles showing interesting side effects and fatuous misconceptions of the Swine Flu breakout:

AP: Israeli Jews find the name Swine Flu offensive and non-Kosher.

Daily Kos: Will Republicans stop filibustering Kathleen Sebelius’ nomination as Secretary of Health and Human Services thanks to Swine Flu outbreak? (Of course they won’t.)

Friendly Atheist: Atheism is more popular than Swine Flu for NYT readers.

Republican Faith Chat: God hates America, Mexico, idolotry and progessives, so He created Swine Flu

XKCD: Swine Flu exposes Twitidiocy

Roanoke Times: VA Gov. Tim Kaine declares state health emergency even though there are no cases of swine flu in VA

– Reed Braden

Oh!  And I has a blog!  KTHXBAI!

NY Times Article needs a good berating…

Thanks to SophiaZoe over at A Pandemic Chronicle this morning for pointing out this schlop of a news article.

Read it and feel her glibness and sarcasm dripping off the page. It’s a little sickening. Susan Dominus really doesn’t think that the Swine Flu is a big deal. She snarkily asks her readers not to panic, because the cases of Swine Flu at Queens High School were relatively mild.

Oh! Oh, ok. Because Susan Dominus says it’s alright to breath easy, I guess we can. I guess I should stop worrying about the 100 or more dead in Mexico and the endless new cases of Swine Flu popping up ALL OVER THE WORLD. But yeah, it’s no big deal.

Listen, I wish it wasn’t! To be honest, I will be perfectly glad when it’s all over! So I can go back to writing about representational disease and zombies and figuring out how Frued might be trying to tell me that infection equals enlightenment. Trust me, I like that side of it way better…otherwise I would have majored in Biology. But I’m an English major. I can’t bring you the facts the way those people in Blog Roll can, but I can call out an unfair treatment of a situation.

So if anyone else, after reading the article, thinks that Susan Dominus is being just a little too snarky and glib over a situation where PEOPLE ARE DYING (oh, so maybe they aren’t AMERICAN, but yes there are people dying)—here is her e-mail address. Tell her.


Seasonal Vaccine is likely no help

EDIT: Apparently, after more testing H1N1 does show some sensitivity to both Tamiflu and Relenza. But this may not be stable. We’ll wait and see.

To answer Andrew’s question, it looks like the season vaccine is not going to be effective at all.

ATLANTA — U.S. health officials say they are “very pessimistic” that the seasonal flu vaccine protects against the unique swine flu infecting people in the United States, Mexico and other countries.

A U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention official said Sunday afternoon that tests of the seasonal vaccine and the new virus show no cross-reaction, suggesting that people who got the vaccine have no added protection against the new bug.

From: http://www.chron.com/disp/story.mpl/ap/tx/6393473.html

With this in mind, let’s keep that discussion rolling! And thanks for all the comments today!!

Apathy in crisis?

There seems to me to be a great amount of apathy in New York City concerning the potential pandemic at hand. This is especially shocking considering it’s ALREADY HERE in New York. Everyone has heard about the 8 students at a Queens high school who have been confirmed as having a flu (likely Swine Flu)…and nobody in New York is talking about it…

I live in Queens, and nobody is talking about it. Nobody is saying anything. What is the deal? Are we really that apathetic? Are we not taking it as seriously as we should be?

I’m going to turn on the news now.

Blog Roll

Okay friends, you’re still awfully (dreadfully) quiet. I’ve updated my blog roll to include the three blogs that are my go to sources for pandemic information. These people know way more about actual pandemics (as opposed to my theroretical and representational ones).

Avian Flu Diary, A Pandemic Chronicle, and Scott McPherson’s Journal are all really reliable and smart bloggers who can give you more go to facts (while I sit and ponder human nature and reaction). (edit: I’ve just added Crof’s Blog too, of course)

More blog roll updates to turn up in the coming days I imagine, given the potential severity of the Swine Flu outbreak.

Talk to me readers.

Okay, so with news flying around about the Swine flew and the 68 dead in Mexico (the words “potential pandemic” are also being bandied about), I think it is time that those of you who have casually read over or glanced at this blog step up and speak out. Tell me what you think about pandemic and disease or zombies and humans and social theory in general, but especially now in the context of this outbreak.

I know I have readers. I have facebook friends who come look every time I post, but never comment.

So come on, friends. Read back to other posts, put your thoughts together. I will chime in too, of course, but I want a lively discussion happening right here in the comments section!

And my usual suspects: I expect your voices to lead the way on this.

Are you afraid?

What does pandemic mean to you?

What are your thoughts on the mortality rate differences of the different strains?

What does our lack of preparation say about us? Not just the U.S., but globally.

What do you think the potential social ramifications of this are?


Follow me on Twitter, be my friend on Facebook. Let’s get this discussion moving!