Category Archives: flu pandemic

What happened to your city in This Plague of Days?

Detroit Burned

 

When I consulted one of my survival experts about the end of the world as we know it, he shocked me a bit. We were at my dining room table with a map spread out in front of us. We were tracking the Spencer family’s escape from the Midwest east in my serial, This Plague of Days.  John Badger (survival guy, geography and hiking expert) put his palm on the map, covering a good swath of the west coast of the United States.

“And, of course, under the circumstances, all these people are dead,” John said.

“What?”

“No water. When you wipe away the infrastructure, there’s no water there. Vegas? Gone. L.A.? Dead.”

“Um.”

“Yeah, it’s very vulnerable and, with the conditions you describe, they’re toast or trying to migrate out of trouble in a pretty short time.”

As the Spencers head for a farm in Maine they hope will be safe, they hear a lot of rumours about what’s happening across the world. First came the Sutr-X world flu pandemic. Then Sutr-Z laid waste to Europe and Asia. In Season 2 of This Plague of Days, the crap hits the ceiling fan in America and Canada.

I just wanted you to know, we put some serious thought into it. Some rumors you can believe. Others will conflict and first reports are always wrong. I hope you join the adventure while it’s still a vicarious thrill instead of a handbook to the apocalypse.

Have a nice day.

TPOD season 1 ecover

 


Episode Two of This Plague of Days: Everything breaks

Read This Plague of Days. (And please, wash your hands frequently.)

This Plague of Days, Episode One (99 cents)

This Plague of Days, Episode Two (99 cents)

or

just grab

This Plague of Days, Season One

at a discount for only $3.99.

TPOD Episode 2


Scary news on MERS from the Middle East

A coronavirus that may cause SARS. (transwikie...

A coronavirus that may cause SARS. (transwikied from en.wikipedia.org) (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Reblogged from Business Insider:

There are still many things researchers don’t know about the new SARS-like virus now called MERS-CoV (Middle East Respiratory Syndrome coronavirus) that’s been infecting people in the Middle East.

There’s no vaccine against the new virus, but a study published in the journal Scientific Reports on March 27 showed that the anti-virals ribavirin and interferon-alpha 2b seem to stop the virus from copying itself in the lab. About half of the 40 infected people have died.

Here’s what we know happens when you get infected with MERS…

Read the rest here.

 


What do we really need to survive disaster?

I just ran across a great website called Survival Cache!

Follow this link to their 100 suggestions about stuff you need and what disappears first in a disaster. 

It’s a thorough and fascinating list. In the first four episodes of This Plague of Days (to be released soon!) the Spencer family is under siege from the world flu pandemic.

Until the Sutr Virus hits here, you could read these books by Robert Chazz Chute. Just sayin'.

Until the Sutr Virus hits here, you could read these books by Robert Chazz Chute. Just sayin’.

They stock up on what they can as prices soar and canned goods are flying off the shelves. 

I’ve seen that happen personally on a small scale. During the SARS crisis, you couldn’t buy a bottle of hand sanitizer for any price where I live. The supplies were all gone in the worry and panic over SARS.

Then, at the end of the first season of This Plague of Days, the crisis shifts. Over the next four episodes, The Spencer family loses a lot, including much of their cache of emergency supplies. Once they’re on the run, they can’t take everything they need. Then they can’t carry everything they need. When traffic jams block all escape routes, survivors have to get innovative.

So we need to think carefully about our go-bags.*

What do we absolutely need and what luxury will feel like it weighs a ton by the fifth mile of our hike to safety? Individual capacities will vary. Maybe you’re a Marine who can huck a heavy ruck 25 miles a day, but what weight can your ten-year-old daughter carry? Is the weight in the harness rig on your dog balanced? Can grandpa walk out of the flood zone unassisted or should he stay behind and hope for a helicopter? Do you have alternate escape routes and fallback positions? What’s the backup plan behind the backup plan behind the backup plan? 

What’s in your backpack?

When many people think of prepping, they picture a fortress, panic rooms, a bunker, a defensible Wal-mart or a castle with a moat. They picture infinite supplies and relative comfort. But what if the hurricane takes away your supplies and screws up your plans for holing up and waiting out the flood, fire and armies of crazed zombies?

To be zombie-ready, we have prepare to be mobile, too. Get out your clipboards, pack and repack and weigh. Start crossing stuff off your awesome list. Figure out what gets packed in the basement, the family van and what you can carry on sore, aching shoulders to safety.

*More on go-bags in a coming guest post by friend and fellow author Jordanna East.


Extended, special sneak peek: How This Plague of Days begins

“Basically,” Dr. Julian Sutr said, “Viruses are zombies. They are neither classifiable as living nor dead. When given the opportunity, they reproduce using a host. Their molecules form complex

Until the Sutr Virus hits here, you could read these books by Robert Chazz Chute. Just sayin'.

Until the Sutr Virus hits here, you could read these books by Robert Chazz Chute. Just sayin’.

structures but they need hosts to reproduce. Nucleic acids, proteins — ”

The Skype connection froze for a moment and then the doctor understood he was being interrupted. “—preciate your summary, doctor.” Two men in uniform and one woman in a suit, each with their own screen, regarded him with impatience.

“The virus has grown more…opportunistic. What fooled us early on was the varied rate of infection and lethality. I suspect individual variance in liver enzymes accounts — ”

The woman cleared her throat and Sutr lost his place in the notes he’d prepared for this meeting. She sighed as he fumbled with his iPad. He had too many notes and not enough time. The woman sighed and tapped a stylus on her desk. “I’m meeting with him soon, doctor. I need the bullet, please. What do I tell him?”

Sutr removed his glasses and closed his eyes. This was too important to stammer and stutter through. Finding the correct words had never mattered more. He took a deep breath but kept his eyes closed and pretended he was speaking intimately with his beloved Manisha. His wife’s name meant “wisdom” and she shared her name with the goddess of the mind. He needed her and her namesake now. “My team and I…” He took another deep breath. “The virus has jumped.”

One of the men in uniform, an admiral in white, spoke, which automatically muted Dr. Sutr’s microphone. “First it was bats, then birds, then migratory birds, then pigs and cows. What animal do we warn the WHO about now? What animal do the Chinese have to slaughter next to keep the cap on this thing? A vaccine won’t help billions of Chinese peasants if they starve to death first.”

“I’m very aware of the stakes, sir, but the virus has jumped to humans. I asked my contact at Google to watch the key words. The epidemiological mapping of the spread is already lighting up in Japan, Malaysia, Chechnya and I already have confirmation it’s in parts of the Middle East, I’m afraid.”

“What’s your next step, doctor?” the woman asked.

Sutr opened his eyes. “I’ve sent my team home. They should be with their families now. As should we all.”

The man in the green uniform, a four-star general, leaned closer to his camera, filling Sutr’s screen. “This is no time to give up the fight, doctor. We’ve got a world to save from your…what did you call it? Zombie virus?”

“Pardon me, general. It was a clumsy metaphor. My point was that viruses are dead and I can’t kill dead things. I’m afraid we lost containment. I suspect we must have lost control sometime in the last two to three weeks. Perhaps less. Maybe more. There are too many variables. This virus is a tricky one. Something new.”

The general paled. “Are you saying this disease was engineered?”

For the first time, Sutr showed irritation toward his inquisitors. “I don’t know! I told you, there are too many variables. The loss of containment could have been sabotage or someone on my team made a mistake. Maybe they were too afraid to admit their mistake. It’s possible I made a mistake and I did not recognize it as such! I’ve identified the virus signature, but the work will have to be taken up by someone else. In my opinion, we need a miracle. As a virologist who has worked with Ebola, my faith in miracles is absent. Nature doesn’t know mercy or luck. That hope was beaten out of me in Africa.”

The admiral cut in. “Look, you’re already headed for the Nobel by identifying the virus. There’s time. We have to hope — ” but the woman in the suit held up a hand and he fell silent.

“We do appreciate the complexity of the challenge before us, Dr. Sutr. That’s why we need you. You’re the best and you’re farther along in the research than any of the other labs.” The woman looked conciliatory now and her voice took on a new, soothing note. “We’re very anxious to have you continue.”

Dr. Sutr stiffened. “I’ve already composed and sent an email for the lab network. You’ll have the entire data dump and I’ve made extra notes so your teams won’t waste time with what hasn’t worked. Dan, at CDC will coordinate my latest data to the other nodes. Good luck with it.”

The woman’s eyes narrowed. “You were vague about the virus gaining traction in ‘parts of the Middle East’. Have you line of sight confirmation, doctor?”

“Yes. I’ve seen the virus’s work in person. Here in Dubai, in my own house. Tarun, my baby boy died last night. My wife, Manisha, followed him to see where he went early this morning.”

“We’re so sorry for your loss, Julian,” the woman said. “Are you infected?”

“I have no doubt I will die.”

“How long have you got, son?” the Admiral said. “You’ve said the infection gradient and lethality is so variable…you could keep working. We could still defeat this thing.”

Julian Sutr’s voice came firm and steady. “General, Admiral…Madam Secretary. It’s entirely possible that I brought it home to them. My wife and child are dead by the virus that bears my name. I should have been an obstetrician like my mother. She brought life into the world…” A tear slipped down the doctor’s cheek. “You people ask me what you should tell him. Go to your briefing. Tell him that, in all likelihood, he is the last President of the United States.”

Dr. Julian Sutr picked up the Sig Sauer P220 from his desk, placed the muzzle under his chin and pulled the trigger.


H7N9: The new bird flu

Remember the threat of H5N1 (AKA Avian Influenza or Bird Flu)?

 Here’s a link to an article about H7N9. It’s killed 22 in China as of this writing, but because infection hasn’t occurred in migratory birds and markets that

 

English: Chinese inspectors on an airplane, ch...

English: Chinese inspectors on an airplane, checking passengers for fevers (a symptom of swine flu). Taken in China after arrival, prior to exiting the plane. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

 

sell the birds have been closed, the spread of the disease has been slow. What’s most worrying about H7N9 is that appears to spread to humans easier than previous strains of bird flu.

 

One of the other things that’s aiding global safety from world flu pandemics is that, after denying that SARS was a problem, China was embarrassed when they finally had to admit they had a huge problem with the disease. After they lied about their SARS event, the Chinese government took unprecedented steps toward transparency. They’re better at reporting their problems with contagious disease now. Awareness and sharing of information are ways we will have a chance at containing outbreaks and preventing contagion.

You’re being tracked

 

Another interesting approach comes from a marriage of epidemiologists and the Internet. Internet searches are tracked for key words. If there’s an uptick in people googling flu symptoms, for instance, maps can be made of the spread of viruses based on the searchers’ locations. This grassroots epidemiological data tracks rates of viral infection and serves as an early warning system so authorities can take steps to warn and protect health care workers, hold quarantines, restrict travel and warn the public to use precautions.

 

Precautions in case of world flu pandemic may include:

Public awareness campaigns to wash your hands (do that anyway, for God’s sake!); social distancing; banning public gatherings; house arrest; quarantines for public safety; border closings; travel restrictions; promoting the use of masks, etc.,…

 

When the crap hits the ceiling fan, it pays to be warned and prepared for a world flu pandemic. Governments are working behind the scenes (often with underfunded agencies, departments and programs) to get ready for such catastrophic events.

What are you doing to prepare?

 


The Sutr Virus: What happened?

From this morning’s revisions of This Plague of Days.

Grant Ave. in Chinatown, San Francisco.

Grant Ave. in Chinatown, San Francisco. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

It seemed it was already too late for most cities. However, many small towns that had survived the plague by brutally defending their borders, shooting trespassers and discouraging strangers. Successful survivors rooted out contagion and walled it off quickly, staying apart from the infected and shooting anyone who would compromise their security. That’s why the hospitals were dead. They took people in. The VA hospital on his own base had become a death house before word of the plague had spread through the forts’s hometown of Helena.

Similarly but on a grander scale of destruction, Carron knew San Francisco had been forced to billet soldiers returning from the Middle East when all the troops were recalled. San Francisco had fallen first and fastest than any American city for that reason. Citizens had welcomed the veterans (some of whom already had Sutr before they deployed from the ships) and so everyone died of compassion. San Francisco had been too kind to survive the New World.

From the safety of a military bunker in Montana, Lieutenant Carron had read the reports, watched the world fall, and passed the incoming intelligence reports to his superiors until his superiors fell sick, too. Some lived through Sutr’s fevers. Most died. Lieutenant Francis Carron didn’t so much as catch a cold and he would not give a sliver of compassion the chance to infect him.


Media Fails: Don’t trust them in a crisis

The bombing of the Boston Marathon taught us a lot:

1. Good people outnumber the bad.

2. People can respond well in a crisis.

3. Law enforcement can be excellent and relentless in the pursuit of justice.

And the media often sucks at this!

TV reporter John King went on CNN to say a suspect had been arrested for the bombing of the Boston Marathon. King spoke on camera with Wolf Blitzer (who repeated the word “exclusive” so often you’d think he was working up to an orgasm). King said reliable sources had captured a “dark-skinned man” they blamed for the attack. King was wrong, though CNN took their sweet time admitting the mistake. First was more important than right. As a former journalist myself, it was frustrating to watch the media raise a city’s hopes and then crush them (while contributing to the confirmation bias of racists.) It was a bad day for everyone and a black mark on CNN’s record.

The suspects were soon killed or caught and they were white. But the media mistakes don’t begin or end with CNN. For days it seemed that any picture of a dark-skinned person wearing a backpack at the marathon was reason enough to identify innocent bystanders as suspects. Identifying the wrong people for horrific crimes in photographs is dangerous business. A Saudi citizen was reported as a person of interest (a report the police quickly denied.) Newspapers printed pictures of suspects who were not suspects, leaving those pictured in fear for their lives twice over. What would these reporters say to the victims of these misidentifications, especially if they were murdered by well-meaning and misguided vigilantes? The potential damage outweighed any news value. The only reliable pictures were supplied by police investigators and the  FBI at the news conference which identified the prime suspects.

In the absence of facts and with too much time to fill, reporters quacked through their 24-hour news cycle with more speculation than reportage. Some right-wing radio personalities, including professional alarmists, conspiracy theorists and gold hawkers Glenn Beck and Alex Jones, took a little information and spun it out into free association diatribes meant to inspire fear rather than enlightenment. However, they are commentators, not reporters, so they’re free to get it wrong and reframe their mistakes so, somehow, they’ll appear right. That’s free speech. Real reporters aren’t supposed to have the luxury of being gullible and making things up.

Old-school journalists were about facts and used multiple sources to confirm stories before they delivered the news. When they got it wrong, they were supposed to be first with that admission and an apology. Now, due to competition and relaxed standards, they’re just about getting it first, right or wrong, even if they’re “first” by only a few seconds. CNN used to be America’s most trusted news source. Now the most trusted man in news isn’t in news. He’s in comedy and he’s Jon Stewart of The Daily Show.

 

When disaster strikes, most of what you hear is wrong

Amid panic, rumours take root. Sometimes it’s a child’s game of telephone, where messages get skewed in transit and really screwed up upon delivery. Speculation is often treated as fact. On September 11, 2001, it was reported that the attack on the Pentagon had been an exploding military helicopter. No one remembers that now, but it was a serious consideration for a short time. Sometimes law enforcement releases leaks to mislead their prey and the media are dupes or useful tools. That stuff only comes out when books are written and historians take over from the journalists.

On that horrible  sunny morning in September 2001, there was a brief brown out in my area. The TV was out and, as I listened to events unfold on my wind-up radio, I jogged  next door to ask the neighbors if their power was out as well. One fellow wondered if the power outage was part of the terrorist attack, too. Maybe that sounds silly now (and I went into denial rather than give the thought any weight) but in the moment? You never know how widespread a disaster really is. On 9/11, we sure didn’t see an invasion of Iraq coming, for instance.

What should you expect from media amid a disaster?

Rumour. Panic. Speculation. Worst-case scenarios. Fear-mongering. Hype. Worry. Sensationalism.

Be particularly wary when you hear repeated use of the word “exclusive”.

Media: You have earned our distrust.


Wash Your Hands!: The most reliable preventative against spreading disease

Person washing his hands

Person washing his hands (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

I have a guest post coming next week about go-bags. I’m hoping the buddy who is a SWAT expert who consults for my crime novels will favor us with post about getting zombie-ready, too. Before we get too much deeper into this blog, though, I have to write this post. It is at once a hopeful idea and a deflating one. Here’s the key thing you need to know to prevent the spread of disease:

WASH YOUR HANDS!

Every day we touch our faces, our mouths and eyes hundreds of times. We do it after touching doorknobs and shaking hands and borrowing a pen. The vectors of disease are everywhere, waiting for us to make this mistake. It’s such an easy fix, yet lots of people fail to do it. Sometimes I think the human race is too dumb to live and we’ve just been lucky so far. Here’s why…

How to

Use hot water and soap (and not anti-bacterial lotions if you can help it.) After you wash your hands, the best preference is to shut off the tap with your elbow or, after you dry your hands with a paper towel, turn off the tap with the same paper towel. Don’t grab the bathroom door handle with the hand you just washed and then go share popcorn with your date. Use the paper towel again, a sleeve, a glove or wait for somebody else to open the door.

Why to

I don’t have OCD. I just know how much fecal matter is on handles, ATM keys and your money. The germs on money is akin to used toilet paper. If a food handler tries to serve your food with the same dirty hands they used to take your money, do not eat it and tell the manager to retrain his or her staff.

Why does this information bring me up and down at the same time?

Because it’s the same advice given to revolutionary war soldiers to help prevent the spread of disease. Washing your hands was initially a radical idea and the doctor who first proposed the practice to decrease the incidence of infant mortality in his hospital was persecuted for it (and eventually ended up in a madhouse.)

SARS

During the SARS crisis in Toronto a few years ago (in which 44 people died), hand washing was the prime directive. That’s depressing because that was the best advice they had at the time and still is. After the invention of the microscope and vaccines and amazing medical technology, the best we can do is still ordinary hygiene you should be doing anyway. And many people don’t. We’d call them selfish pigs, though that’s an insult to pigs.

What’s worse?

I waited a long time for a surgeon to show up to give me some stitches. He’d just driven in to the office from home. Before he touched me, I asked that he wash his hands. Yes, he was going to use an anti-bacterial and wear gloves etc.,…, but first I had to ask him to do the basics. He looked mildly irritated, but he complied, so fine. No infection for me.

I knew another health care practitioner who went to the bathroom but felt he was too busy and important to wash his hands before going off to see patients. I witnessed this once personally. Even after getting berated for his negligence and disrespect, I’m sure he probably gets away with it when no one else is around to call him on it. 

Mount your defences

To protect you and your family, get in the habit if you aren’t already. Wipe down germy surfaces (kitchen counters, doorknobs, cutting boards)  with hot, soapy water, vinegar and water or organic cleaning products so food-bourne bacteria doesn’t make you sick. Wash your hands for your benefit and for the health of others.

Until better medicine comes along, basic hygiene is still the first defence against the coming plague.


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