In 2014, one person confirmed with Ebola set off a panic in the United States. Though 28,000 people died of heart disease while media attention focused on that outbreak, and anti-vaccine parents on the West Coast were suddenly prepared to spend any amount of money to get their kids immunized against it, what happened with pandemic preparation after the fear subsided was...not much.

The fact is, we tend not to think about disaster preparedness unless disaster is already upon us. This makes some sense, of course, because people may be hungry right now so there isn't much point to spending money worrying about a volcano - but pandemics are so devastating and so rapid in their effects that it almost demands there be some level of preparedness.

An emergency hospital during the influenza epidemic of 1918, Camp Funston, Kansas. Credit: Otis Historical Archives Nat'l Museum of Health  &  Medicine

In the United States, the Flu Pandemic of 1918 was almost a hundred years ago, but it might as well have been a thousand, in terms of how we do things differently. Though the media whipped everyone into a frenzy about Bird Flu in 2009, and again about Ebola in 2014, we still have engaged in little real preparation for the next one. And I am no merchant of fear, but there will be a next one. That is the nature of disease. The most devastating pandemic to Western minds was the Black Death of the 14th century, which wiped out a giant chunk of Europe in just a few years.

It leads to provocative questions, like do pandemics lead to survival of the epidemiologically fittest? In other words, are they nature's way of making sure disease does not send us the way of the dinosaurs?

No one is predicting World War Z or The Walking Dead, but to at least get people thinking about pandemics, and do some science and health outreach, Science 2.0, the National Geographic Channel, and the American Council on Science and Health (along with other outlets) are doing a multi-platform event across all our sites to raise awareness. This will culminate in a new series launching on November 1st called "Breakthrough: Fighting Pandemics". It premieres at 9:00 Eastern but you can check out a preview below.

Now if you'll excuse me, I am going out to buy shotgun shells and an axe, just in case I am wrong about the "no World War Z" thing.