Medical thriller specialist Robin Cook outlines the plot of a book about the catastrophe resulting from recombinant influenza, in the hope that such a book would spur preparedness efforts:
Governments and individuals will do desperate things, some rational and others not so, like deploying the military to try to close borders or using firearms to keep possibly infected strangers at bay. Hospitals will be overwhelmed at first and later forced to lock their doors. To avoid interpersonal contact, people will hole up in their homes, causing government offices, schools, and businesses to close. Many public officials will be forced to quarantine themselves from a diseased population and retreat to undisclosed locations, which will only fuel the public panic. Riot police in biohazard suits (if there are even enough to go around) will increasingly be called upon to beat back waves of sick, scared, and helpless civilians, desperate for food, water, and medicine.
Tom Clancy seems to inspire a lot of our homeland security policy (though less so under the present Administration) — why shouldn’t Cook have a go at public health planning? Personally, I find the pandemic ‘flu threat more probable than terrorists armed with exploding water bottles.