In the Olivet Discourse, Jesus described the signs that would be observed by the last generation (that generation who would witness these "end times" events), leading into the Tribulation and the subsequent Second Coming of Christ Jesus. One of these signs given was the emergence of "pestilence" or, known today as infectious disease. When I was attending medical school in the late '70's (yes, that was a long time ago), there was hope that the development of new antibiotics and antiviral medicines would outpace emerging bacterial and vital infections. Unfortunately this optimism no longer exists.
During the last two decades alone, according to the World Health Organization, approximately 30 new diseases have been recognized by the scientific community (read here). Additionally, in 1996, infectious disease accounted for about 1/3 of the 52 million deaths that year. Because of global travel, genetic mutations (bacterial and viral), refugees, congested urban areas world-wide, and various "population shifts", even those infectious diseases once thought under control are reemerging, and appearing with complete resistence to therapy.
In fact, new and emerging infectious diseases are tracked by the Center for Disease Control (CDC) and the ongoing list is extensive (here).
One of the most concerning stories in infectious diseases has been MRSA, which stands for Methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus. This particular bacteria causes "staph" infections that are serious and life-threatening and are resistant to treatment with antibiotics. For the CDC summary read here. The development of MRSA is another ominous "infectious disease scenario" that we have see in our generation.
In January 2002, the CDC released the following revealing statement:
"The bacterial infections which contribute most to human disease are also those in which emerging and microbial resistance is most evident. The consequences are severe...Most alarming of all diseases where resistance is developing for virtually all currently available drugs, thus raising the spectra of a post-antibiotic era. Current trends suggest that some diseases will have no effective therapies within the next ten years."
This intro takes us to the current story which is found in the headlines today:
"Mexico swine flu deaths spur global epidemic fears". According to this article (and many others), "A strain of flu never seen before has killed up to 60 people in Mexico and also appeared in the United States...It shut down schools and canceled major public events in Mexico City". Close analysis revealed that the disease is a mixture of swine, human and avian viruses, according to the CDC. Mexico has already reported that over 1,000 people have been infected. The dead were aged between 25 and 45, which is a particularly ominous sign, as one of the hallmarks of a pandemic is the ability to affect the young and healthy people - a hallmark of the deadly influenza virus of 1918 (also one of the first signs of this generation).
One of the most "interesting" quotes from the article above: "We are very very concerned," World Health Organization spokesman Thomas Abraham said,
"We have what appears to be a novel virus and it has spread from human to human...It's all hands on deck at the moment."
Also, according to Dr. Michael Osterholm, a prominent U.S. pandemic flu expert, said late friday, "Given how quickly flu can spread around the globe, if these are the first signs of a pandemic, then there are probably cases incubating around the world already...in Mexico City there are literally hundreds and thousands of travelers come in and out every day...you'd have to believe there's been more unrecognized transmission that's occured."
"Travel advisory warns of severe respiratory illness in Mexico"
"Swine Flu. Mexico Lung Illness Heighten Pandemic Risk"
"Most Mexico fatal flu victims aged between 25-45"
In my medical opinion, I have the following general ideas:
- This outbreak has made the news quickly and seemingly has come out of nowhere. Its SO early in the process, its very very difficult to gauge how significant this will be. In several weeks this could end up being a complete "non-story".
- Based on the unusual rhetoric from WHO and the CDC, I have concerns. Typically, their rhetoric "downplays" various risks, etc., but with this outbreak, the rhetoric is atypically concerning. That alone raises my eyebrows. I'm not sure exactly what it means, but I can say that their rhetoric is unusually alarming.
- This current "outbreak" has several elements which are similar the recent "bird flu" which has been of great concern and the pandemic of 1918 which killed between 20-40 million people. Also known as the "Spanish Flu" it killed more than WWI and more deaths than the well-known "Black death" Bubonic plague of 1347-1351. The similarities are striking, and this is greatly concerning.
This certianly warrants close watching. We probably won't have much choice, as the news is already covering the story extensively.
Pestilences. Another sign of the times. I'll update this story as soon as anything new or interesting emerges. Keep watching. As mentioned in the last post, it appears (moreso now) that we are about to enter another strong "contraction" or also known biblically as a "birth pain".
More importantly, I believe that Jesus will soon fulfill the prophecies given in 1 Corinthians 15 and 1 Thessalonians 4. He will come to "gather up" or "catch up" His followers before the Tribulation begins. The final stages of birthing, (aka "Tribulation") are rapidly approaching. Every sign that we have been given, is not only present today, but all signs are progressing rapidly in both magnitude and frequency.
As Jesus said:
"When these things begin to take place, stand up and lift your heads, because your redemption is drawing near."