Just after WWI one of the world’s worst pandemics in modern history spread throughout the globe. By the time it had run its course the Spanish Flu had killed, by some estimates, up to 100 million people worldwide.
With the current outbreak of swine flu in Mexico, we are lucky we live in an age where technology can keep up with the spread of such outbreaks. In 1918, news slowly leaked to the rest of the world via telegram and cable, but nobody knew the true nature of the disease until it was too late.
The Avian flu outbreak a few years ago had people in a panic, and rightly so. It was a highly virulent strain of the disease with a high mortality rate. Yet it didn’t spread as lethally as previous pandemics for a number of reasons, one being the ability in this modern age to get information out quickly.
Some of the main information distribution points include the Internet, emails, television and SMS’s. Once a story breaks, within a day, anybody in the world who is connected to any of these information outlets knows what is going on.
The Mexico City outbreak of swine flu is said to have started on April 13, however it did not hit the mainstream media until a week ago, which I would put down more to a 3rd party (such as the Mexican government) attempting to put a lid on the outbreak, as opposed to it not being reported.
Not only is the information out there, but it comes in many interesting forms, especially over the net. Google maps
for example, can show me what parts of the world has the flu. It is updated regularly and tells me where those infected are living, their current health, and adds those who have come down with the disease as soon as they get the information.
To get an official take on the disease I can then zip onto the World Health Organisation’s
homepage and get the latest on what they are doing to battle the disease and what precautions to take.
Finally, if it is a local perspective I want, I can hop onto the Australian Government’s
health department website to get updates they are receiving.
While medical technology will assist in fighting the disease, communications technology has a part in helping stop its spread and educating to maintain awareness.
What do you think? Does technology have a part to play in containing swine flu? Let me know your thoughts.