Snapshots of Despair and Resiliency in Puerto Rico

Over a week ago, Hurricane Maria made landfall as a Category 4 hurricane in Puerto Rico. Maria was the strongest hurricane to make landfall in Puerto Rico since 1928. Only a week before, Hurricane Irma, a Category 5 hurricane, skirted past Puerto Rico lashing it with rain and wind, and leaving millions without power. The situation is now nothing short of dire.  PBS has a good list of places to donate.

From the LA Times:

The scale of the devastation is mind-boggling. The main island of Puerto Rico is about 500 square miles smaller than Los Angeles County, and about a third of the population. At this moment, relatively few of those people have sufficient shelter, access to potable water, or food, or even the ability to travel to find supplies. One mayor warned that “hysteria is beginning to spread.”

People are stranded in high-rises, and few have power for air conditioning to counter the tropical heat and humidity. Those relying on medicines that must be refrigerated (about 14% of the islanders suffer from diabetes; insulin must be refrigerated to maintain its potency) or treatment systems requiring electricity are particularly vulnerable. Local officials report there are still parts of the island from which they have not received damage and casualty reports.

From The Washington Post:

But the scope of the devastation is so broad, and the relief effort so concentrated in San Juan, that many people from outside the capital say they have received little to no help.

“Nothing, nothing, nothing,” said 58-year-old retiree Angel Luis Rodriguez. “I’ve lost everything, and no one has shown up to see if anyone lives here.”

From The New York Times:

For the sick and the elderly, heat can be deadly. Without sufficient power, X-ray machines, CT scans, and machines for cardiac catheterization do not function, and generators are not powerful enough to make them work. Only one in five operating rooms is functioning. Diesel is hard to find. And with a shortage of fresh water, another concern looms: a possible public health crisis because of unsanitary conditions.

The potential for a public health crisis is a big concern, he said. Rats and decomposing animals can spread disease, the doctor added. Without running water, people are probably not washing their hands or boiling water often enough, or cooking their food well enough. This could lead to gastrointestinal outbreaks.

“This is like in war: You work with what you have,” said Dr. Carlos Gómez-Marcial, the emergency room director.

Bill Gates Thinks We Are All Going to Die from Disease

Ok, not all of us. Just a lot of us. Yes, I know it seems like we’re in the middle of a Sim City game where someone has decided it would be fun to unleash multiple hurricanes (not actually a Sim City disaster feature), fires, and floods all at once, but in the spirit of doom, we should also talk about the next pandemic.

According to this article “one of the biggest threats out there is one of the oldest: infectious disease, which can emerge naturally or be human-made, as in a case of bioterrorism.”

Gates has repeatedly stated that he sees a pandemic as the greatest immediate threat to humanity on the planet.

“Whether it occurs by a quirk of nature or at the hand of a terrorist, epidemiologists say a fast-moving airborne pathogen could kill more than 30 million people in less than a year,” Gates wrote in an op-ed for Business Insider earlier this year. “And they say there is a reasonable probability the world will experience such an outbreak in the next 10-15 years.”

Another point to let fester in your mind:

“We are coming up on the centenary of the 1918 influenza pandemic,” he told Business Insider. “We’ve been fortunately spared anything on that scale for the past 100 years, but it is inevitable that a pandemic strain of equal virulence will emerge.”

Let’s just be grateful we haven’t had to deal with these robot monsters yet. All in good time.

 

Swine Flu Vaccine, Are You Up First or Last?

CNN reports:

“The priority groups include pregnant women; health care and emergency services personnel; children, adolescents and young adults up to age 24; household and caregiver contacts of children younger than six months; and healthy adults with certain medical conditions.

The guidelines were approved in a near-unanimous vote by the 15-member Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices. One person dissented on whether to include people ages 19 to 24 among those targeted…

The targeted groups differ starkly from the recommendations for seasonal flu vaccine campaigns, which include people 65 and older in the highest-risk group.

The difference is based largely on data showing vastly higher infection rates among younger people; the rate of laboratory-confirmed cases in Americans 65 and older is just 0.06 per 100,000, compared with 2.6 per 100,000 for the group with the highest infection rates, children 5 to 11.”

Oh, and just in case you were feeling hopeful, here is this uplifting quote:

“The virus and the vaccine are in a race; the virus may win… It’s like thinking about a hurricane. You batten down the hatches. You do everything you can. But when the hurricane arrives, damage will occur. This one is going to be a doozy.”

Follow PlagueGirl on Twitter!