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SARS and the Global Economy

Source: The Left Behind Prophecy Club | 02 June 2003 |

Peril grows as world shrinks

Over the weekend, the attention given in news reports made the tide of SARS (severe acute respiratory syndrome) appear to be heading toward epidemic proportions. The cover of US News and World Report declared "SARS hits home." Monday morning news reports declared that the World Health Organization (WHO) had declared that Viet Nam had gotten the mystery virus under control. As the day progressed, reports indicated that Canada and other countries where the disease had seemed out of control had, in fact, turned the corner and were containing it. Only in China were new cases increasing. Tuesday morning, however, there were reports that SARS had appeared in several new countries, and U.S. officials were still concerned about an outbreak.

Many people thought that science had conquered such diseases. So, why are they now appearing in what seems to be increasing frequency and immunity to available medicine? A page 1 story in Sunday's Chicago Tribune provides a good analysis, with an interesting link to the global economy. Here are some key passages from the article by Ronald Kotulak and Peter Gorner:

Just months before the SARS virus appeared, the World Health Organization reported that the threat from infectious diseases has been increasing for two decades.

"An infectious disease event in one country could constitute a health emergency of concern for the entire world," it warned.

The WHO report was followed in March by another warning from the National Academy of Sciences' Institute of Medicine about the growing microbial threat.

"The magnitude and urgency of the problem demand renewed concern and commitment. We have not done enough-in our own defense or in the defense of others," the nation's premier scientific body reported.

The thinking is contrary to the widely held notion that conquering microbial diseases was one of the supreme achievements of 20th Century science. Instead, epidemiologists have come to realize that a global economy has thrust remote, Third World agricultural villages where diseases often evolve, into close proximity with every major city on the globe.

For viruses, the world is shrinking, and opportunity is growing. . . .

"The ability of infectious agents to destabilize populations, economies, and governments is fast becoming an unfortunate fact of life," said Dr. Margaret A. Hamburg, former assistant secretary of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services and now vice president of biological programs for the Nuclear Threat Initiative. . . .

"We are unprepared," summed up Dr. Robert Webster, chief virologist of St. Jude Children's Research Hospital in Memphis, who recently consulted with Hong Kong health officials about measures to curb the SARS infection there.

"It's not just Hong Kong. It's the United States and the world," he said. "Over the centuries we've built a fantastic military force in the U.S., but we haven't built a public health infrastructure to deal with the biological threat." . . .

To scientists who study viruses, the SARS epidemic stresses the urgency of establishing interlocking local, national and international surveillance systems and worldwide alert systems for new diseases. . . .

In prophetic circles, the term "global economy" is sometimes treated as an evil to be avoided. On the other hand, it can be viewed as a natural outcome of a world where transportation and communication have brought us into a literal "global village." It is simply one of the many signs that God's plan is moving forward. There is, in fact, a vital role for the church in responding, whether it's the fight against disease, battles against evil, or opportunities to carry the Gospel into places where it has not been welcomed.

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