This world is more connected today than ever before – both intellectually through the use of the internet and physically through the ability to travel long distances quickly.  However, there are still gaps in the connection.  There is a new disease, which allegedly originated in the Red Sea, that the World Health Organization (WHO) fears may become a pandemic.  Oddly enough, this story has gone nearly unreported by all mainstream media outlets.

The basic story of this new coronavirus, called MERS-CoV, is quite scary.  Since September of 2012, there have only been 51 reported cases.  However, these cases are widely distributed – ranging outward from the Arabian Peninsula to Germany, Italy, and France.  Even more frightening is the mortality rate of more than 50%.  Despite the concern from the WHO, very little is known about this disease.  This is mainly because, although the majority of the deaths have occurred in Saudi Arabia, the country’s Ministry of Health has done little about the disease except announce new cases and report deaths.  Even basic patient information has been left out of the Saudi reports.

The WHO is even more concerned now because millions will be heading into the epicenter of the disease as Muslims make a pilgrimage to Saudi Arabia for the holy month of Ramadan.  It is not known how MERS-CoV is spread or how easily it is spread, but the necessarily poor living conditions for many during Ramadan could easily create an outbreak of the disease if it is indeed transferred between people.  In the worst case-scenario, hundreds of thousands, or even millions of tourists, could return home after Ramadan carrying the disease, spreading it to their home countries.  This leaves many people with a dilemma (if the word “dilemma” interests you, please check it out at OBES) – play it safe and stay home or celebrate their holy month but risk contracting the disease.  Yet with so little information regarding the disease, it’s impossible to predict for sure what will happen.

The troubling part, right now, is why this story has received so little attention.  It is possible that the reason for this disparity in reporting is caused by the lack of information on the disease, but, for something that could potentially cause a global pandemic, it seems to completely be a non-issue for major news sources.  At the very least, the global community needs to be aware of the issue to determine whether resources should be dedicated to research on this disease.

However, there is a more overlying global issue in this story.  There is one common factor between the potential spread of this disease and the serious issue of global warming –reliance on fossil fuel-powered transportation.  Without our new modes of fast travel which are powered by fossil fuels, there presumably would not be nearly as many people making the pilgrimage for Ramadan which would reduce the potential for the spread of MERS-CoV.  On the same token, without our current travel technology, we wouldn’t have such a heavy reliance on fossil fuels.  If we didn’t burn so much fossil fuel, global warming wouldn’t be a problem, or at least not as threatening of a problem as it is now.  People should be taking notice of these problems, but they don’t.  The reason that we turn a blind eye to the problems created by fast transportation is that we are dependent on it!  We don’t want to think about how our cars and planes are destroying the world because we are naturally inclined to avoid negative thoughts about ourselves.  We need to wake up and realize that if we keep abusing our world through our means of fast transportation, our downfall will be completely our own fault.

Although our current modes of transportation have undoubtedly made life easier by giving us the ability to travel long distances quickly, are they really a good thing?  Does the convenience of fast travel outweigh the costs of global air pollution?  What if this year’s mass exodus to Saudi Arabia really does bring about the spread of a deadly new disease?  Maybe it is time to question our choices.  Maybe it is time to question the costs of our modern conveniences – conveniences which seem to have become dependencies.

~B

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