Last Updated: Friday - 09/24/2010
October 26, 2009
Heed the potential danger of a swine flu pandemic
When illness strikes, we realize the material world means nothing and we need to reconnect with Jesus
My Glass is Half Full
By MARK PICKUP
The startling headline shouted from the front page of the newspaper: "Flu hits young women hard." The article revealed that the second wave of swine flu (H1N1) is striking healthy teenage girls and young adults particularly hard.
A University of Manitoba studied the cases of 113 women and 55 men admitted to hospital intensive care units between April and August this year: The average age was 32. Twenty-nine of those people died (17 per cent). This is reminiscent of the Spanish flu outbreak of 1918.
SAME SUBTYPE AS SPANISH FLU
According to the CBC's Technology and Science online news, the H1N1 virus belongs to the same subtype as the Spanish flu that killed more than 20 million people worldwide in 1918-19.
The Spanish flu was most deadly amongst people 20 to 40 years of age. It was unusual in this way because influenza most often kills the elderly and young children.
The death rate from the 1918 Spanish flu was 2.5 per cent. That meant that out of every 1,000 infected people, 25 died. (The typical mortality rate during flu season is less than one tenth of one per cent.)
People became ill and died quickly. There were stories of people developing the flu while on their way to work and dying within hours. There was an anecdotal account of four women playing bridge together. Overnight, three of them died from influenza.
Fortunately, according to the U.S. Center for Disease Control and Prevention, the H1N1 strain of flu virus is not as virulent or deadly as the 1918 pandemic. Perhaps with vigilant health care practices and proper vaccinations we will be able to keep it that way.
But let us imagine for a moment that H1N1 becomes a deadly global pandemic similar to the 1918 Spanish flu. It would probably trigger widespread alarm, at times verging on panic, as people would be confronted with the prospect of their own mortality and fear for loved ones.
At such a low and desperate point of grief, material possessions and the things of this world would mean nothing. What good is wealth or possessions without those who loved and were loved?
TURN TO GOD
At some point of desperation or defeat, the only consolation lies in God. Unbelief is a most desolate human condition. The atheist thinks that the dead people he loved have ceased to exist. He does not believe he will ever see them again. The agnostic does not know what happened to his loved ones who perished or what is in store for him.
The Christian knows that death is not the end. He places his hope in Jesus Christ. He can find solace in the hymn Turn Your Eyes Upon Jesus. It was written in 1918, by Helen Lemmel as the Great War and Spanish flu were killing millions of people who also loved and were loved:
O soul, are you weary and troubled?No light in the darkness you see?There's light for a look at the SaviourAnd life more abundant and free!
Thro' death into life everlastingHe passed, and we follow him there;Over us sin no more hath dominion-For more than conq'rors we are!
Turn your eyes upon Jesus,Look full in his wonderful face,And the things of earth will grow strangely dim,In the light of his glory and grace.This great old hymn has comforted millions of people for more than 90 years. The composer was right. When we focus on Jesus, the things of earth do grow strangely dim.
As I write these words, nobody knows whether there will be another global pandemic like the 1918 Spanish flu, or other terrible plagues that have ravaged hu manity. The experts tell us we are overdue for one. I pray they are wrong.
Archbishop Richard Smith has wisely instituted a number of procedures to minimize risks to parishioners of the Edmonton Archdiocese. This includes making hand sanitizers available in churches, emptying holy water fonts, distributing the Eucharist in the hands of the faithful. The Precious Blood will not be distributed until further notice.
We must not take the second wave of the H1N1 virus casually or let down our guard.
Getting vaccinated, frequent hand washing, coughing into our sleeves and staying home when we are sick can go a long way to prevent the spread of influenza.
Regardless of what is in store, the greatest human imperative is for people to turn their eyes upon Jesus and enter, through repentance and faith, into his glory and grace.
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