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The scariest thing about a global pandemic is that diseases and viruses and such have no regard for feelings, politics, or any other trivial bullshit we occupy our time obsessing over. It has one job, and that job is to make people sick. If a lot of them die, even better. I mean, it's not better better, but that's how a pandemic makes a name for itself, you know? What are you going to do?
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Get killed by something that looks like this, probably.
This is one of the scarier scenarios because, unlike an earthquake or radiation, you can't take cover when you see it coming. You won't see it. You can take all sorts of steps to be prepared before one arrives, and you can quarantine yourself in your home once you know one has arrived, but if you're on some patient-zero-catch-it-from-a-random-stranger type of shit, you'll just start getting sick without any advance warning.
Also, viruses fight back. They evolve and learn to overcome our tactics. They never stop fighting. It's scary shit, for sure. That said, while it's true that another global pandemic like the Black Death would kill a significant portion of the population, we are never going to have a pandemic like the Black Death again, because that shit happened in 1347.
This is the world's oldest Wikipedia page.
It was a different world, so much so that prevention strategies back then consisted mostly of scratching a cross above the words "Lord have mercy on us" into your front door and then hoping for the best.
Unfortunately, that's not a long way off from how the continent of Africa approaches AIDS prevention right now. That's still very much a pandemic, and that has a lot to do with places like the Republic of Congo, where the archbishop of Kinshasa, the country's capital, is credited with the following quote:
"Using condoms as a means of preventing AIDS can only lead to sexual promiscuity."
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Condoms cause sex.
Of course, if the Vatican wasn't telling their army of 1 billion followers in Africa that condoms have holes in them and are therefore useless in the fight against AIDS, quotes like that might not be such a common occurrence.
Whatever the case, that won't be the story in this country if a new pandemic hits. Yeah, we have our fair share of Bible thumpers, but what has always made America special as it relates to religious zealots is that around here, it's rare to find one who actually believes the shit they're trying to sell everyone else. If the threat of a pandemic ever becomes way too real in the states, they'll rely on modern medicine to save them just like the rest of us.
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Walgreens will protect us.
And save us it will! Not all of us, obviously, but compared to the Black Death, which killed a third of the human population, experts predict that a global pandemic reaching the United States could potentially make 30 percent of the U.S. population sick, which is a drag, but only 4 million people would be admitted to the hospital. Of those hospitalized, 2 million will die.
I admit, those are grim numbers, but at the same time, I'll take those odds over every third person I know (it will skip me) dying an untimely death any day. There are nearly 314 million people in this country. A pandemic, according to experts, would knock that number down to about 312 million. That's still pretty sad, but at the same time, it sounds a lot less scary than the movies make it out to be.
This is the biggest of all big ones, a nuclear attack on the United States. Right off the bat, I should point out that what I'm referencing here is not a scenario where we anger a legitimately powerful government to the point that they lob hundreds of missiles at all of our favorite places. We all die if that happens. Or, at the very least, most of us will wish we did. That's the stuff extinction-level events are made of, which, in turn, are what Busta Rhymes albums are made of ...
It's the one with no songs you like!
... so you know they're serious. That said, what about those aforementioned rogue terrorists? What are the chances any of us would survive if one of them got their hands on a nuclear device and detonated it in, say, Los Angeles? It would be an unspeakable tragedy, no matter what, but your odds of surviving are way higher than you probably expect.
None of this applies to the blast radius, of course. If you're within that, you are done. You probably won't even have a chance to figure out what's happening before you die. It will be swift, painless, and visually stunning. For people a mile or more outside ground zero, though, a nuclear attack would be absurdly survivable, according to a 2010 Department of Homeland Security study.
If every single person in that vicinity took absolutely no shelter following the blast, 285,000 of those people would die.
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Again, though, it's going to be damn pretty to watch.
That's bleak, but something to keep in mind is that they're referring to shelter in almost all of its available forms. If all of those people took shelter in their cars to avoid the fallout, shockingly, that estimated victim total drops all the way down to 125,000. That's still a lot, but honestly, how many of you assumed you could just wait out a nuclear attack in your vehicle?
Seriously, you'll be fine!
They say you'd need to hide for "several hours," but if it means not dying in a nuclear attack, that seems like a fair trade-off to me. Things get even more promising if all of those people could somehow make it to a basement, in which case the total drops to just 45,000 dead. That won't happen, mind you, because no one in California has a basement, but still, good to know.
Even better to know, if those people collectively made it to the basement of a heavily insulated office building, there would be no deaths from nuclear fallout. Zero.
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It will be like living at work!
To summarize, yes, the blast would still kill plenty of people, but if you can find a place to hide for a few hours, according to the Department of Homeland Security, you have a fantastic chance of surviving a nuclear attack. Granted, you'll probably get murdered for the contents of your survival kit by a horde of marauders a few days later, but how awesome will those few days be knowing you had what it took to survive a nuclear disaster?
Adam would like it a whole lot if you'd download the latest episode of his podcast and/or come see him tell jokes in person the first and third Tuesday of every month at Westside Comedy Theater in Santa Monica. Once you have all of that out of your system, follow him on Twitter and Facebook.