Let’s lay off politics for a bit and talk about something a little lighter. It seems like the mood in America has been so serious these days. It’s all such doom and gloom- the economy is tanking, everyone needs a semi-automatic rifle to protect themselves from the government, cruise ships have now become floating Johnny-on-the-spots, etc. etc.
That is why I was so excited when a friend of mine handed me something from my local Costco the other day. Now, I’ll admit I haven’t been in Costco for a while. I live in an apartment with just me and a six-year-old so buying in bulk is not a necessity. I realize that people love their Costco. I don’t understand it. I find it exhausting. I think it’s because I find Costco to be a survival-of-the-fittest kind of mentality and I just don’t need 30 rolls of toilet paper so bad that I’m willing to shove my fellow-man aside so I can get to it. I guess I come by distaste for hunting honestly – in every capacity including warehouse shopping.
Anyway, my friend handed me a pamphlet from Costco.
“Preparing for Pandemic Influenza – Knowing what could happen is the first step towards being prepared.”
Surely this is just a pamphlet about how important it is that we all get our flu shot. Since I’m sure Costco prides itself on being able to offer customers a $1.00 hotdog and a flu shot on the same visit, this has to be an advertisement for a flu shot.
The starts by explaining the influenza pandemic.
“However, a pandemic would be caused by a new type of flu virus. People would have no immunity to it and no vaccine would exist to prevent it. It would take months to develop and produce a vaccine that works against a new pandemic flu virus. Because of this – and because people would have no immunity – a new flu virus would spread rapidly. Hundreds of thousands in our country could get sick, and many could die.” Cue scary music.
It goes on..
“No one knows when the next flu pandemic will happen; large pandemics occurred in 1918 1957 and 1968. Far more people travel today than in the past which makes it easier for disease to spread quickly around the world.”
Time out Costco. Take a Xanax from your pharmacy department. Put panic on hold. Let’s break this down, shall we?
1918 was a hellish time for the flu. 675,000 people died in the US from the flu. People didn’t really understand how to cough into the “cough pocket” like we teach kids today (don’t cough into your hand, but into your elbow for those without kids), we weren’t telling people to wash your hands regularly, antibiotics use wasn’t widespread, the flu wasn’t even diagnosed correctly, Twitter wasn’t around to tell people what was up, etc. etc.
1957 – 59,000 people died, mostly elderly. Vaccine use wasn’t widespread. People couldn’t update their status on Facebook with how sick they were. Even without Facebook, this was down considerably from the 1918 pandemic.
1968 – 33,000 people died. Again the numbers declined considerably. Antibiotic use went way up, vaccination was also way up. Understanding how to manage a public health crisis was better and that means the deaths decreased.
Doesn’t seem so gosh darn scary when you put it into perspective now does it? Then again, it won’t have people purchasing mass amounts of bulk toilet paper, water and other items that you suggest in your pamphlet if you weren’t peddling fear, now would it?
Costco goes on to tell us what to have at home in case a flu pandemic like 1918 hits again:
- Enough food and water per person for a week or more. Doesn’t Costco sell food in bulk quantities?
- Medications for a week. I think Costco has a pharmacy.
- Items to relieve flu symptoms – stock medicines for fever, cold medicines, blankets, humidifier. Extra water and fruit juices to help with hydration. Let me guess where I can buy large quantities of items like these? Alex, What is Costco?
- Items for person comfort – store at least a week’s supply of soap, shampoo toothpaste, toilet paper and cleaning products. Costco left out things that I need for person comfort like chocolate, my People magazine, the latest OPI nail polish and Bravo TV. Where would I go for personal comfort items? Again, Alex, I’ll take Costco for $200.
- Activities for yourself and your children – include books, crafts, board games, art supplies and other things that do not require electricity. Ok Costco – you just lost Gen X and Y. We’re talking the flu here, not World War III. However, who has a toy aisle? I know! It’s Costco!
- Pet supplies – remember food, water and liter. God forbid that if we are in the middle of a massive pandemic, Fluffy goes outside to go poo poo. However, if Fluffy can’t do her business outside, where would I get large quantities of cat liter…hum…anyone…anyone?
- Cell phones or regular phone with a cord – Cordless phones will not work if the power is out. One more time on that one Costco – the power is out. why exactly would the power be out because of the flu? Does this new pandemic come with time travel back to 1918? I’ll have to look on my iPhone who sells telephones. I have a feeling I can find one at Costco.
- Large trash bags – garbage service may be disrupted or postponed. Guess where you can buy large quantities of trash bags…I’ll give you a hint. It starts with a “C” and ends with an “O”.
I think you get my point. I’m all for being prepared, however, a flu pandemic is not the pandemic of 1918. Our public health system is prepared for emergencies and public health crisis like never before. Now maybe I’ll be the one who will be eating crow if a flu pandemic really hits and I’m the one left unprepared – literally eating crow. However, I can tell you the one place where I won’t be shopping with marketing tactics disguised as public health preparedness…it starts with a “C” and ends with an “O”.
Now excuse me while I go buy an assault weapon to protect my home from possible invasion.