Sunday, August 14, 2005

Avoiding the first Casualty

Polyidiotitis : Diagnosis and Treatment.

It has been said that the first casualty of any war is the truth. Undoubtedly true. During an emergency, the first casualty is usually common sense. During a large-scale event, such as a Hurricane, Polyidiotitis, an insidious and serious disease, runs rampant.

No one is immune, and the symptoms may not always be obvious early on. Even professional responders have been known to contract this oft times embarrassing and sometimes deadly disease. Etiology of this disorder is poorly understood, but clustering of cases is common, suggesting a human-to-human vector.

Person’s afflicted with this disease often exhibit the following symptoms. Rapid pulse, increased blood pressure, rapid, oft times shallow breathing, and bizarre psychiatric manifestations that include, but are not limited to, a feeling of invulnerability or immortality. This may be a dissociative disorder, as victims of Polyidiotitis seem to lose any vestige of situational awareness. They develop a narrow focus, a tunnel vision of sorts, that diminishes their ability to make rational decisions.

Clearly there is a disconnect in the patient between reality and their perception thereof. Victims of this disease may argue, quite convincingly, that there is absolutely nothing wrong. When confronted, they may even become combative.

Those in close contact with these subjects must take care not to become afflicted themselves (see Lemming’s Disease).

A paradoxical response is sometimes seen in Polyidiotitis, characterized by denial and decent into a semi-fugue state. These victims, while not exhibiting the classic symptoms of Polyidiotitis, are just as profoundly affected. They often fail to take action, or prepare, in the face of an advancing threat. Indeed, their dissociation may be so complete that they simply are unable to accept that any threat exists.

While the manifestations of Polyidiotitis can vary widely from subject to subject, there are certain commonalities the clinician must look for. The most widespread of these is an utterance when faced with a clearly dangerous situation, referred to by specialists as “Famous Last Words Syndrome”, that generally involves the phrase, “Hey, guys. Watch me do this!”

This is a devastating, but clearly diagnostic sign. By this time, however, the disease has fulminated to the point of crisis, and the victim may no longer be salvageable.

Early detection and intervention is the key. Watch for these specific warning signs.

If a subject decides to go surfing or swimming within 24 hours of a land falling hurricane, they may have Polyidiotitis.

If a subject stocks up on canned food, selecting items with bulging lids because `there’s more food in those’, they may have Polyidiotitis.

If a subject buys and installs a generator inside their house or garage, they may have Polyidiotitis.

If a subject insists that candles or kerosene lanterns are safer that battery operated lights during a hurricane, they may have Polyidiotitis.

If a subject decides to drive or walk around their neighborhood during the eye of the storm, or travels long distances to view an area of destruction after the storm, they may have Polyidiotitis.

If a subject is found walking about after a storm barefoot, they may have Polyidiotitis.

If a subject fails to evacuate, or board up their home, or check to see if they have adequate supplies on hand to weather the storm, they may have (paradoxical response) Polyidiotitis.

Treatment: Until additional research is completed, treatment options are limited. Containment should be of paramount concern, as the potential for widespread contamination is serious. Talk therapy, or in extreme cases, temporary confinement, appear to be the only courses of action. While victims may be stabilized by such measures, this is not indicative of a cure. Relapses are common.

In summary: Attempts to have Polyidiotitis placed on the CDC’s list of Rapidly Emerging Infectious Diseases has thus far failed. Nevertheless, researchers believe that, given the rate of growth of this disorder, it is only a matter of time before the true depth of this epidemic is fully appreciated.

Today there is no cure. While scattered cases are reported everyday, true outbreaks seem to occur just before, during, and after large-scale natural disasters. Thus far, these outbreaks, much like flare ups of Ebola in equatorial Africa, are self-limiting.

However, it should be noted that the susceptibility to this disease seems to be increasing. Previous generations, while not immune, appear to have had some natural resistance. Environmental toxins (ie. TV, music videos, video games, and unprotected exposure to mass media) may play some part in the development of this disease. More research is clearly needed.

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