Wednesday, April 29, 2009

As if the recession wasn't bad enough... people are scared about the swine flu. Yesterday in the library, while my students were supposed to be doing research while the librarian was around to help them troubleshoot, one student beckoned me over to show that the number of cases in this country had reached over 60. And now it's more. The other day in the laundromat, as a drifter/surfer exchanged his jar of pennies, nickels, and dimes with the washing machine repairman for a handful of quarters, the woman nearby them delivered a cacophony of hacking coughs. I hoped it was not the end for all of us. When I was in high school, I became extremely interested in the 1918 pandemic, and devoted a lot of my time to reading about it. Something about the lack of control that everyone had was so fascinating. I had never thought about the regulatory policies and infrastructural elements in place that help govern and control the way that people live and die. All the makeshift hospitals they had to establish, the mass graves they ended up clumsily digging when mortuaries ran out of coffins, and the futility of their preventative measures (apparently those masks weren't all that useful) were endlessly interesting to me. Here's a pretty graph from the time charting the ebbs and flows of the catastrophe. Hopefully this time around the flu won't be as severe.

Photo from here.

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