Worried about Coronavirus? Feed your anxiety, and commonsense. – UPDATED

UPDATE 31 Jan 2020:

We’ve learned that, in Chicago, there is a case of human to human transmission of the virus.  W.H.O. declared an emergency.

Today I read.

___ Originally Published on: Jan 28, 2020

A little anxiety can create clear thinking.  A lot of anxiety can cause paralysis.   We need information to help us game things out in our heads, which ought to be a constant, commonsense, practice of situational awareness.

I’ve been a reader of dystopian novels for some time, though I had taken a bit of a break.   They help you game things out.  I’m now calling back to mind some books that dealt with pandemics as one of the SHTF scenarios.

You can get these on Kindle, my reader of choice especially for current events books or just entertainment.  Great for travel.  And you can search the books.  Moreover, they don’t gather dust in stacks around my apartment.

First, there’s one from the writer of Dune, Frank Herbert.  A truly creepy scenario.

The White Plague


There is another dated book by Stephen King

The Stand


Closer to our own calendar date

THE JAKARTA PANDEMIC: A Modern Thriller (Alex Fletcher Book 1) by Stephen Konkoly.


This next fellow, Bobby Akart, writes without strong language, vulgarities or sexual innuendo.  He wants young people also to be able to read.

Pandemic: Beginnings: A Post-Apocalyptic Medical Thriller Fiction Series (The Pandemic Series Book 1)


Remember also…

The Plague by Albert Camus

The Andromeda Strain by Michael Crichton

Executive Orders by Tom Clancy

With Kindle Unlimited you can read lots of books for free.

I once heard an interview with someone from the CDC, who talked about cycles of pandemics.  He said that we are way over due, in the cycles of these outbreaks.  He commented that, were a bad one to break out, we will be totally overwhelmed.  The image he used was “stacking bodies like cord wood”.

In any event,


About Fr. John Zuhlsdorf

Fr. Z is the guy who runs this blog. o{]:¬)
This entry was posted in GO TO CONFESSION, Semper Paratus, TEOTWAWKI, The Coming Storm and tagged , . Bookmark the permalink.


  1. Lurker 59 says:

    On this topic, I strongly recommend The Hot Zone by Richard Preston. It is NONFICTION.

    I also second The Andromeda Strain. It is very dry and plodding, but also short and highly informative as a work of plausible science fiction (as opposed to speculative science/fantasy fiction).

  2. Kirk says:

    I can’t read Stephen King, for many reasons.

    The book I recommend is Prey, by my all time favorite writer, Michael Crichton.

    Not exactly a virus that we think of being an pandemic but nanotechnology is getting closer everyday to allowing this to happen.

  3. acardnal says:

    I’ve read some of those books. I second Lurker 59’s suggestion above, “The Hot Zone”, non-fiction, by Richard Preston about a very real Ebola virus outbreak in Reston, Virginia.

    There is also a new documentary series called “Pandemic” on Netflix. One of their original productions. I’m getting ready to watch it soon!

  4. mrwarminski says:

    Our priest encouraged us to receive the Eucharist in her hands last Sunday since “it is the most ancient form of receiving” …. all due to Coronavirus. Thoughts?


  5. mrwarminski says:

    Good grief…”our hands “

  6. Bob says:

    The Stand was a great book, however, I also can no longer read King. As far as I’m concerned, his liberal use of vulgarities just does not add to his books. As a matter of fact he lost a fan because of the filth.

  7. Jacob says:

    Father, with folks who are not symptomatic able to spread the virus for two weeks, at what point do you think we are free from the obligation to go to Mass? How soon is too soon to worry?

  8. Suburbanbanshee says:

    You know, folks, it’s probably more to the point to strengthen your immune system against both unknown and known infections.

    1. Eat good. Sleep good. Drink lots of fluids. Take your vitamins.

    2. Wash your hands.

    3. Be cheerful and trust God. Watch funny movies.

    4. Send appreciative visualizations of stomping the baddies to your white blood cells (which does actually up your immune system a little, apparently). Watch the anime Cells at Work, if you would like to watch heroic leukocyte adventures.

  9. Jacob: obligation to go to Mass?

    It’s probably a little too early to start worrying. I don’t think it is too early to start thinking.

  10. Everyone:

    Here is a screenshot of the comment form:

  11. ArthurH says:

    There is a great “after epidemic/bio war” book.

    It’s Earth Abides by George Stewart. Excellent read of what happens after such. Not what you might think… until you think about how we are structured in society.

  12. Facta Non Verba says:

    The 2011 movie Contagion, with Matt Damon, is chilling. It is fictional, of course, but takes place in Minneapolis. At one point, they close the border with Wisconsin to trap all of the Minnesotans in the contagion area. Later, roving bands of hungry gangs go from house to house looking for food. After I saw that movie, it made me think seriously of buying a firearm for personal protection.


  13. Semper Gumby says:

    Solid first paragraph Fr. Z.

    Earth Abides is a good novel, thanks ArthurH.

    For what it’s worth, some background info on the 1918 pandemic. Some say it originated in Asia or Europe in 1917, others in the US in 1918 in or around a Kansas military base (they point to the cattle and hog farms, and migratory bird paths).

    This is an article by John Barry (author of The Great Influenza), his opinions can be taken with a grain of salt (such as Pres. Woodrow Wilson’s flu (or stroke) possibly causing the harsh terms of the Versailles Treaty and thus paving the way to WW II.) Regardless, there are interesting anecdotes in his book and the following article:


    A National Institutes of Health study funded by DoD examined six US communities that largely avoided the effects of the 1918 pandemic. (The spring 1918 wave was mild, the autumn 1918 second wave was when things got out of hand.)


  14. acardnal says:

    It should be noted that more people have died from the flu this season than from coronavirus. In the USA about 8100 since October!

  15. acardnal says:

    So get your flu shot. Go to confession. Have a drink.

  16. Semper Gumby says:

    acardnal: According to that sage of sand and sea, Jimmy Buffet, it’s five o’clock somewhere.

  17. Ave Maria says:

    No flu shot for me ever.

  18. Grant M says:

    Worried about Coronavirus?
    Recommends “The Jakarta Pandemic”.

    Sardonic laughter. I live in Jakarta.

  19. Adelle Cecilia says:

    Indeed. ?

  20. Adelle Cecilia says:

    Now, see…
    I did “preview,” and it showed my “thumbs up,” not a “?”
    Oh well.

  21. JustaSinner says:

    The Stand, IMHO one of the best novels ever…all 1000+ pages.

  22. OssaSola says:

    Highly recommended: The Coming Plague by Laurie Garrett. Non-fiction discussion of newly emerging disease threats. Written for the general reader and I found it to be riveting.

  23. Markus says:

    As an avid reader, I have read many disaster series and the predicted aftermath is the same. Akart’s latest series relates to the magnetic polar shift which is happening today. The magnetic North Pole has shifted over 30 miles last year and is now closer to Siberia. The magnetic field surrounding the earth protects us from solar radiation. It weakens during these shifts.

    Akart’s prior series was concerned with the volcanic activity at Yellowstone National Park.
    Arriving home last Sunday after the 8 am Mass, I was reading this blog when a rumble was heard and felt, the windows shook and rattled. I could feel the vibrations through the concrete slab floor. Living in an area where there is some mining, it felt like a mining blast. On Sunday at 9:30 am?

    Monday, I checked the “Earthquakes Today” website and learned that there was a 2.9 magnitude, 3K depth earthquake some 15 miles away from our home. I further learned that we are some 933 miles away from Yellowstone but only 15 miles away from the southern edge on Yellowstone’s magma bubble.

    And the viruses.

    [And there was an earthquake felt in MIAMI, Florida!]

  24. Semper Gumby says:

    Lurker59 and acardnal: Another Richard Preston book is “The Demon in the Freezer.” There are chapters on anthrax and USAMRIID, the Marburg virus, Ebola and the CDC, the Soviet defector Vladimir Pasechnik and the Soviet Biopreparat that worked on weaponizing The Plague, genetic engineering of viruses, the Jackson-Ramshaw mousepox, and WHO, Dr. Lisa Hensley and smallpox eradication. Preston can be a bit dramatic, but an interesting read.

  25. BostonEmigrant says:

    Just wait until Captain Trips visits from China.

  26. Semper Gumby: That list made my blood run cold.

    The use of biological agents goes way back into antiquity. While they didn’t know exactly what the cause of death by disease was, its transmission, they sure knew what contagion was.

    Thucydides describes how Sparta probably poisoned the wells of Athens. After the Roman campaigns and the defeat of Carthage, the great general Hannibal. working as a merc in Asia Minor, hurled pots of poisonous snakes onto the enemy ships.

    And in the 14th c., the Black Plague probably broke into Europe more quickly than it would have because in the what is now Ukraine… yes… the Ukraine, Tartars catapulted the bodies of people who died from plague into the city of Kaffa. Of course they also catapulted the plague carrying fleas with them. That was in 1346. In turn, since Kaffa was a port city where merchants from Genoa were doing business, the Genovesi brought the rats from Kaffa, with their infected fleas, on their ships back to Italy. The plague broke out in Genoa in 1347 and spread to wherever trade was heaviest, such as France and England.

    Plague never really went away. There is a poignant and harrowing description of the plague outbreak of 1630 in Milan in the Italian standard I promessi sposi. When Renzo goes to Milan to search for Lucia, people think that, because of his strange (to the Milanese) clothing, he is a foreign spy deliberately spreading plague. BTW… Federico Cardinal Borromeo, cousin to Carlo, is in the book and favorably presented.

    And plague is showing up in these USA again, because of bad southern border security! Thanks, democrats!

  27. KateD says:


    “The Coming Plague” is a very good book!

    It has several chapters on various (then) emergent diseases around the world, hypothesizes as to why so many are developing now and projects what we can expect to see coming down the line at humanity as far as a “big one”.

    A friend who was up on Marian apparitions said one of them spoke about a fever that would rock the world’s population. She said Hawthorne (not sure if it was berry, flower or leaf) could be used as a tea to treat the illness. That is a little confusing since Hawthorne (according to my plant bible, “Herbal Medicines: Trends and Traditions” by Charles W. Kane) is traditionally used for heart issues.

    Until close to the turn of the millennium 90% of western medicines were plant derivatives…now I think it’s probably the other way around. In an era when it’s tough to get prescriptions filled, even directly after a major surgery, it might be useful to know a little about plants.

  28. Pingback: MAP and Stats: track the spread of Coronoavirus | Fr. Z's Blog

  29. Semper Gumby says:

    Fr. Z, KateD, OssaSola: Interesting.

    Last November on All Saints Day the National Library of Medicine posted “Remembering the Saints of the Plague”:

    “Three saints that prominently grace the pages in early modern rare book collections at NLM are St. Roch, St. Charles Borromeo, and St. Sebastian.”


    There was an outbreak of Plague in San Francisco in 1900, and a second outbreak a few years later.

    Here’s the CDC page on quarantine:


    Another Plague book is The Great Mortality by John Kelly. It begins at Kaffa (or Caffa).

    “In 1266, when the Genoese first arrived in southern Russia, Caffa was a primitive fishing village tucked away far from the eyes of God and man on the dark side of the Crimea — a collection of windswept lean-tos set between an empty sea and a ring of low-rising hills. Eighty years later, seventy thousand to eighty thousand people coursed through Caffa’s narrow streets, and a dozen different tongues echoed through its noisy markets. Thrusting church spires and towers crowded the busy skyline, while across the bustling town docks flowed silk from Central Asia, sturgeon from the Don, slaves from the Ukraine, and timber and furs from the great Russian forests to the north. Surveying Caffa in 1340, a Muslim visitor declared it a handsome town of “beautiful markets with a worthy port in which I saw two hundred ships big and small.””

    “By 1340 trade routes linked the port to places half a world away — places even the Genoese knew little about — and in some of the places strange and terrible things were happening. In the 1330s there were reports of tremendous environmental upheaval in China. Canton and Houkouang were said to have been lashed by cycles of torrential rain and parching drought, and in Honan mile-long swarms of locusts were reported to have blacked out the sun. Legend also has it that in this period, the earth under China gave way and whole villages disappeared into fissures and cracks in the ground. An earthquake is reported to have swallowed part of a city, Kingsai, then a mountain, Tsincheou, and in the mountains of Ki-ming-chan, to have torn open a hole large enough to create a new “lake a hundred leagues long.” In Tche, it was said that 5 million people were killed in the upheavals. On the coast of the South China Sea, the ominous rumble of “subterranean thunder” was heard.”

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