Lest We Be Complacent
The times are overwhelmingly zombie-crazed. One need not look any further from the media and all its channels of entertainment to satisfy an undead fix. TV series like The Walking Dead enjoy a viewership by the millions, while 2013 saw the successful release of World War Z and Warm Bodies on the big screen. These films were adapted from novels that already had a considerable fan base of their own. Online, zombie saturation is a presence just as strong; giving birth to the prepared and paranoid subculture of preppers.
The earliest zombies of pop culture yore–that is, of corpses brought back to life with a killer hunger for human flesh–has George A. Romero to thank. The filmmaker built his entire career on the idea of the “zombie” and made Night of the Living Dead (1968), considered by many as one of the first movies of its apocalyptically graphic genre ever made. Fast forward to the 21st Century, and the genre is reanimated by Danny Boyle’s 28 Days Later (2002).
Zombies ever since then ceased to be sluggish, slightly stupid former cadavers. They have morphed into the rabid superhuman brain-eaters they are known for today and are no longer results of voodoo and other religiius rituals. These days, the zombiesof pop culture yore support the idea thatt anyone could suddenly become a zombie once they came into contamination. One thing’s for sure, audiences have long been strangely atracted to al things “zombie.”
If online forums are to be believed, there are actually a lot of people who look forward to an apocalypse. According to their brags and memes, they would play it like they would in a video game. Prepare defense strategies, bug-out vehicles, plot out booby traps surrounding their hideouts, have enough stored food to last a mini-lifetime–all very grandiose plans when “Shit Hits The Fan” which also happens to be an actual prepper website. But the demographics behind modern-day survivalists who want a zombie apocalypse range from “married family man” to “middle-class teenage fan know-it-alls with access to Internet”. While they’re busy preparing for future catastrophes, others less privileged in society are already living it.
It is along this line of both fascination and fear that people follow the developments of any major virus outbreak in real life. In 2003, it was the Sever Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS) with 8,000 cases worldwide and 750 or so confirmed deaths. As recently as 2009, the Influenza A virus subtype H1N1 (AH1N1) pandemic caused the loss of an estimated hundred thousand up to half a million lives based on a 2012 report by The Lancet Infectious Diseases Online. And seemingly, God-forbiddingly succeeding the swine flu is this year’s Middle Eastern Respiratory Syndrome (MERS).
MERS, according to The Center for Disease Control and Prevention, is a viral respiratory illness caused by a coronavirus called MERS-CoV. Though ominously named, people actually spread and catch coronaviruses all the time, typically as a non-fatal common cold or the more fatal pneumonia. MERS is, therefore, described as an atypical pneumonia as it does cause inflammation of the lungs; however, MERS does not come from the usual bacteria or viruses associated with regular pneumonia. The difference, being, the coronavirus in MERS is that it has more in common with SARS. In drawing parallels with SARS, both syndromes share the same symptoms: High fever, cough, shortness of breath and diarrhea. MERS infections usually occur in children, pregnant women, and the elderly. Both the cause and cure of the MERS is still unknown which makes the risk even greater.
However, there are sources that claim of MERS taking the life of its first victim in Saudi Arabia in 2012. The following months saw a sporadic but sustained trickle in the number of MERS cases, with most of its victims contracting the virus after visits to the Mid-East.
As of writing, the reported number of cases has risen to 323, with a total of 94 people dead; 2 of which are Filipino. Most local households did not immediately feel the threat despite news breaking out from the relative safety of television screens. However, the distant figures of the MERS fatalities suddenly became dangerously close facts after further reports indicated that MERS was a foreign disease that could actually wind up in our own backyards and, indeed, it did. According to reports, 26 suspected virus carriers have entered the Visayas; 20 of which are from Cebu. In a fortunate turn of events, it has been confirmed by the Department of Health (DOH) that all 26 cases were tested negative for the MERS-CoV test. In the same April 25 report by Cebu Daily News, one particular individual, a potential MERS carrier, is still unaccounted for and at large. However, it is still too soon to declare total security.
Thousands of Overseas Filipino Workers (OFWs) regularly come home to the Philippines every day. In a study conducted by the International Organization for Migration (IOM), about 67% of OFWs are based in Middle Eastern countries. Saudi Arabia is still a top OFW destination. The World Health Organization (WHO) issued a risk assessment which concluded that travelers, religious pilgrims and workers in Middle Eastern countries are the most likely to come down with a case of MERS. Though, no travel restrictions have been enforced.
So what is to be done once MERS succeeds in making its way to our shores? How can the average citizen protect himself? The precautionary measures provided by the Department of Foreign Affairs and the DOH are nothing extraordinary. We mostly have to: wash hands frequently with soap and water, cover mouth and nose area when sneezing or coughing, then dispose of used tissues, disinfect surfaces that are the constant object of direct skin contact like doorknobs, gadgets, handles, etc. And finally in the worst case scenario of knowing or even living with somebody afflicted with MERS is to refrain from all contact especially the close, unnecessary kind such as kissing and the sharing of utensils.
A global pandemic will be ugly, affecting everyone. Besides the danger of getting the disease, large social gatherings and civil services would cease to exist, transportation next to impossible, the labor force diminished and supplies scarce. And to think all these adverse economic effects could happen even without the science fiction of a zombie apocalypse. They are all possible if vigilance is not exercised in the wake of something like MERS. Thus, be vigilant and take precautionary measures in times such as these and with other virus, disease, and outbreaks as well.