You know, in reading all the speculation about the healthcare legislation the Republicans are so ashamed of that they had to hide it from the American people for weeks, something occurred to me. In this country, we have set up the perfect set of circumstances to ensure that the next time a dangerous pathogen pops up, it will turn into a runaway epidemic virtually overnight here.
There are millions of people with no health insurance, and millions more with such shoddy insurance that they might as well have no insurance. And all those people probably won't go to the doctor when they get sick. Because who wants to bankrupt themselves to be told they have the flu, drink plenty of liquids and stay in bed?
Also, those tend to be the same people who have little to no sick time and bosses who are anything but understanding when it comes to illness. So they'll likely go to work anyway. And their jobs probably either involve direct contact with the public or working in a closely-packed cubicle environment, possibly even sharing a desk with one or more co-workers. All of which will give the pathogen plenty of opportunities to spread.
Then there are all the cuts in budgets for government agencies and the appointment of people whose only goals are to dismantle the agencies they've been put in charge of. So, any efforts by public health personnel to institute containment protocols will be severely understaffed and underfunded, and will also lack competent leadership and direction.
Periodic outbreaks of disease are inevitable. Microorganisms evolve constantly and, eventually, something will manifest that is dangerous to human beings. The first few days, weeks, and months in dealing with an emerging infection are crucial in determining whether or not it can be contained. Proper monitoring, which health professionals are a big part of, and swift and effective mobilization of resources can be the difference between a handful of cases and a pandemic.
All-in-all, right now we have such a perfect storm situation for a public health disaster that it almost sounds like the plot for a movie or a book. If it wasn't so terrifying it would be hilarious.