An illustration of the major risks in the report suggests that electronic attacks on computer or communication systems and terrorist attacks are among the most likely threats, but would not have the widespread impact of a flu pandemic.
The Big One uses as its point of reference the so-called Spanish Flu of 1918-20, the pandemic equivalent (along with the more ghoulish but also distant spectre of the Bubonic Plague) of World War II. This is not irrational, and despite the advances in microbiology, general health and nutrition since the harsh years following the Great War there is no reason to think it couldn't happen again.
That flu had a (morbidly) fascinating effect of primarily hitting those we would expect to have the most resistance: young adults. Apparently this was due to causing an over-reaction in immune systems, so the stronger the immune system the more damage the disease caused- a cytokine storm.
The last I read about it Australian governments had bought out large stockplies of drugs and related flu management equipment, but this is earmarked for 'essential services' rather than widespread vaccination of the general populace. What the rest of us could hope to do is probably to make the call early enough and stay home, or run for the hills. Stockpiling, as much as it is reminiscent of cellars full of provisions for nuclear war, probably makes sense:
But Woolworths and Coles, the nation's two major supermarket chains, will run out of stock within two to four weeks without a supply chain – or even faster if shoppers panic.
This has prompted a team of leading nutritionists and dietitians from the University of Sydney to compile "food lifeboat" guidelines to cover people's nutritional needs for at least 10 weeks. Their advice – published in the Medical Journal of Australia – would allow citizens to stay inside their homes and avoid contact with infected people until a vaccine becomes available.
The lifeboat includes affordable long-life staples such as rice, biscuits, milk powder, Vegemite, canned tuna, chocolate, lentils, Milo and Weet-Bix...
We will likely be victims of our own society, the primacy of work and the difficulty we would cause for ourselves, and those who work with and rely on us, if each time a pandemic threatened we stayed home from the outset and battened down the hatches for a week.
If in doubt I have told Beloved I would like her to retreat to the family farm, up in the foothills of the Snowys, with the kids, before the rush, in that awful grey zone where the likelihood of a biological holocaust is becoming realistic, but the impact is not yet visceral enough to allow me, most of us worker drones, to lose the guilt and flee from our workstations.
Take me. Do not take my children.
UPDATE: a literary analogy that came to me while commenting at LP:
The awful quandrary could be likened to that of the townspeople in Everything Is Illuminated, hearing of the approaching SS and the tales of what was happening to Jews but, in most cases, unable to make such a stark call as to pack up their things and flee, until it was too late.
UPDATE II: Roxon reassures, we have almost 9 million doses of antiviral stockpiled. This must be reassuring for the mathematically ungifted.
UPDATE III: Rather less than amusing in Mexico.
UPDATE IV: Heightened risk of pandemic, says WHO.
Others: Robert at LP hopes we dodge the bullet. Bullet? So much worse.