With all the ominous discussion about avian flu, I'm among the many who are wondering if our number is up for a worldwide killer bug.
Pandemics have been a constant in human history. Considering the burgeoning world population, it's surprising we haven't had this concern before now. Six billion germ-carrying humans bumping elbows is a lot of exposure to innumerable unhealthy agents.
There are theories that pandemics are nature's protection against overpopulation and overuse of resources. This line of reasoning contends that when the world reaches a state of critical mass, some natural catastrophe, such as a pandemic, purges the human population down to a manageable size. The life and growth cycle can then renew itself. It's a troublesome thought, but it does make a certain amount of sense.
There's no point in stressing about what might happen. There will be time enough to worry should the disease break loose. And even in that unhappy event, we are probably better prepared for a flu outbreak, from an informational and technological standpoint, than any other generation in human history.
There is one added consolation; not everyone who falls ill in a pandemic succumbs to it. I'm the granddaughter of a 1918 "Spanish flu" survivor. One can only hope that such an iron chip is hardwired into the DNA circuit board.