Originally Posted by Brat
Biologically, humanity is overdue for an epidemic. Those impacted the greatest will be in the world's slums and just like the Black Plague the well to do will not be spared. I don't think medical science can react fast enough to prevent the contagion once it is under way. It might be the Bird Flu, and if it is the current form of the virus will reduce the World's population by at least 50% (my opinion).
Originally Posted by samclem
Probably viral, not requiring an insect vector, present in a difficult to treat/eradicate animal population (reservoir of disease), easily communicable, high mortality after a fairly lengthy communicable period. Bird flu meets all these factors except the easy communicability criteria, and there's every reason to believe it will acquire this trait with enough time.
Spouse spent most of a year in one of her Reserve billets going to FEMA, state Civil Defense, & military conferences on dealing with pandemic influenza.
Technically H5N1 has already acquired the ability to go from birds to humans, and it's just a matter of time for human-->human transmission.
The book "The Great Influenza" describes many instances where civil & military authorities kept bringing people together. WWI troop movements, city parades and public events, and other quarantine failures allowed plenty of opportunity for the virus to spread.
That lesson has supposedly been learned. Under current emergency planning, the first H5N1 outbreak on American soil will bring national movement pretty much to a halt for two-three weeks while people hunker home with hand sanitizers and facemasks. (The Dow would easily reach 5000-- but the stock markets would be closed.) Hospitals & EMTs would try to treat as many symptoms as they could but unless an effective antiviral vaccine is discovered then 20-somethings are going to have to hope that their immune systems don't get exposed.
As for other epidemics-- look what AIDS is doing to African societies.