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Public Radio's Environmental News Magazine (follow us on Google News)

Ready or Not

Air Date: Week of

Host Bruce Gellerman talks with the head of an online chat room dedicated to H5N1. She goes by the screen name of SophiaZoe and she spends about 6 hours a night advising people on how to prepare for a bird flu pandemic.


GELLERMAN: Joining me to talk about how to survive a flu pandemic is SophiaZoe. That's her screen name on AvianFluTalk, the chat-room she moderates. Welcome.

SOPHIAZOE: Well, thank you for having me.

GELLERMAN: I see that your online profile describes you as “unabashed free-market capitalist, constitutional watchdog, and Ayn Rand devotee.”

SOPHIAZOE: (Laughs) That’s me!

GELLERMAN: Are you a survivalist?

SOPHIAZOE: Absolutely not. I’m just an average mother. I’m going to be a first-time grandmother in two months. I’m just an average citizen.

GELLERMAN: So, you’re not stockpiling rifles and ammo and that kind of thing?

SOPHIAZOE: Well, I come from a law enforcement background, so we have weapons in the home but that’s because of our background. That’s not because I’m some sort of whacked-out survivalist.

GELLERMAN: You’re not afraid of somebody breaking down your door to get your Tamiflu?

SOPHIAZOE: Well, if they tried they would be surprised.

GELLERMAN: Was there ever a situation like that that happened you said, “Oh, I’ve got to prepare for the worst?”

SOPHIAZOE: Yes. My family lived through Hurricane Hugo in 1989. Three-fourths of our state was wiped out, and I got to learn how to live in the 19th century instead of the 20th century. We didn’t have electricity for ten weeks. And we had well water at the time, so that meant we had no water either. We had paychecks, my husband and I, but we had no money because the banks couldn’t open because there was no electricity. We got caught with our pants down and we promised ourselves that we would never ever, ever be caught in that situation again.

GELLERMAN: What kind of special precautions are you taking, if any? Should I buy Tamiflu?

SOPHIAZOE: Well, I bought it. (Laughs) It’s better than nothing, but it’s not the golden bullet.

GELLERMAN: How much food are you stocking up?

SOPHIAZOE: We have a year’s supply of food.

GELLERMAN: A year’s supply?

SOPHIAZOE: A year’s supply. And here’s my reasoning, okay? Computer models show that if a pandemic happens – and that is still in this point and time a big “if” – when we hit the three-month mark then the illnesses and the deaths will start tapering off. Well, we’re not going to be able to just pick our lives up where we dropped them off. I mean, I work in the tourist industry. I’m going to be unemployed. So, I bought food not only to get us through the pandemic period, but also the period where I’m going to be unemployed.

GELLERMAN: It seems to me, you know, that you can prepare physically for this. You can have your gas masks and so on. But psychologically, how do you prepare for something like this?

SOPHIAZOE: You can become overwhelmed, you can become depressed, when you’re sitting there planning on how to make sure that your children survive. Mothers especially have hard times thinking along those roads. You know, it’s like a group hug. I know that sounds so touchy-feely but that’s – it’s a cyber group hug.

GELLERMAN: Boy, if this comes to pass we’re in big trouble.

SOPHIAZOE: If it’s bad. It’s a toss of the dice. It doesn’t have to be bad. But I’d rather be prepared for the worst and hope for the best than hope for the best, then get caught with my pants down, as the saying goes.

GELLERMAN: Well, SophiaZoe, thank you very much.

SOPHIAZOE: Thank you.

GELLERMAN: SophiaZoe is the online identity of the head moderator of the website, AvianFluTalk.com.



SophiaZoe’s Avian Flu Chat Room


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