Over the last week, my eyes were glued to the television and the internet as I watched the unfolding events in Toronto during the G20 summit protests.  But my fascination did not come from the political messages or the nature of the protests.  I was amazed as how the entire event paralleled the events that occur in an epidemic or pandemic.

Let me explain…

It starts calmly.  People are going about their everyday business, some perhaps more aware than others that infections are lurking, just waiting to get a hold, but since there are no signs of disruption, they too remain at peace.  So it is with the protesters.  We all know they are coming but we don’t see them, we don’t hear them. We just have to wait.

Then comes the first signal.  It may happen on a bus, a plane, in a shopping mall, at a church, at work or school.  Someone starts sneezing, sniffling, coughing…getting sick.  It’s akin to the first signs of a riot: peaceful parading protesters marching down the road.  A sense of uneasiness begins to creep its way into mentalities of those around.  They all see the potential for something bad to happen.  People start to distance themselves from the source, whether it be the protesters or the sick individual.

Before you know it, stronger forms of the virus become apparent.  Unlike the first person who merely had a sniffle, people are now getting truly sick. Many barely have the ability to function and have to stay at home or worse, visit a hospital; some of them may never return.  No one envisioned this wrath coming and yet when it arrived, few are ready to deal with its speed and ferocity. So too it seems at the G20 when the Black Bloc crept out of nowhere taking seige of parts of the city of Toronto, forcing people to stay at home or worse, find medical attention should they have gotten caught up in the violence.  While no one died, the violence and the impact was seen worldwide.

Amidst all this chaos are the peace keepers. In an epidemic, doctors; in a protest, police. Their actions are well trained and have been put to the test before.  Some have more experience and know how to ‘put an end’ to the anarchy.  Others are just acting out of instinct, their skills still not as trained as they could be.  Problems may arise and people may complain but in the end, peace is restored.  Over time, the virus and protests die down and soon there’s nothing left to do but count the costs economically, perform the mandatory and called for reviews and investigations and, in many cases, sadly, reveal how many human lives were lost.

Even as I write this, I wonder if people think that I’m reviewing the scripts from Outbreak or 12 Monkeys and not discussing the true nature of an epidemic or pandemic.  After all, look at the rather lackluster performance of the current H1N1 pandemic.  But if one looks back only a few years, they might see that this is exactly what happened with SARS.  Only about 1000 people died worldwide, but the progression, spread and lethality of the disease made it one of the worst anarchists ever, affecting the normal routine of nearly 50 percent of the population and costing the city of Toronto enough to lower its Gross Domestic Product by 0.5% and hurting its tourism market for several years.    Now that they have left, the G20 protestors have barely caused concern to the public.

So, while the discussions about the G20 protests continue to die down and eventually disappear, I hope people remember that there are continually threats of anarchy in our midst…but this form of anarchy has little to do with guns and knives and molotovs.  This one has to do with coughs and sneezes and hand to hand spread of the germs that at times may annoy us, but one day may terrorize us.

Oh, and if you’re wondering how to analogize the politicians and those who were protected behind the now infamous G20 fence…consider them as the ones that got vaccinated.