In which our intrepid hero laughs in the face of a plague.

When you’re suffering an extended bout of insomnia, everything gets under your skin. Well, everything that makes it through the sleep-deprivation-induced haze, anyway. On the other hand, some of these things would irk you even if you were well-rested.

I went to bed last night with high hopes; I even got to sleep before midnight. Then, at around 3am, I awoke. After a little while tossing and turning, I decided to get up, go downstairs and watch some TV.

My new digital set-top box rocks. For the first time in my life, I have access to AusText.

(For those who don’t know, AusText is a service that offers closed captioning and information pages, all in low resolution, 8-bit colour glory; it looks something like a Commodore 64 BBS from the early 1980s, except you get it on your TV. I don’t really have much use for it, but I’m the kind of guy who’s easily amused by novelty. I’ve always wanted AusText, just so I could say, “I have Austext. Cool!”—which is exactly what I did when I found that my set-top box supported it.)

Anyway, with nothing to watch but static images, infomercials and Christian programmes, I decided to flick through AusText. Amongst many other (largely useless) things, it has news stories. One of these mentioned a statement by Health Minister Tony Abbott on bird flu.

Apparently, Abbott tells us, Australia is at risk of a bird flu epidemic, one which could potentially kill thousands. Further down, however, the story mentions what prompted this: a spate of bird flu deaths in Indonesia. A spate being four. Count ’em—one, two, three, four.

Now, if we look at mortality rates of various pandemics throughout history (sources include Wikipedia, the Center for Disease Control and the World Health Organisation), we get:

Pandemic Range Fatalities
Smallpox (20th Century only) Global 300 to 500,000,000
Black Death Global 200,000,000
Spanish influenza Global 40,000,000
Third Pandemic China & India 12,000,000
Asian influenza USA 70,000
Hong Kong influenza USA 34,000
SARS Global 775
Avian influenza Global <100

Yes, I admit that bird flu has increased in virulence, and now seems to be jumping species like Brendan McMahon, but isn’t it still a little premature to indulge in millenarian wet dreams of pestilence and suffering?

Give me a million deaths, and I’ll start to worry. Until that happens, just shut the fuck up, okay?

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