A subtle reminder: Things that go bump in the night which I wrote as an intro to this blog in March 2017.
Avian flu? Smallpox in refrigerators….somewhere? Ebola? Hanta? and anything else live and well that goes bump in the night. We will be witnesses to and perhaps players in the next pandemic. When will it occur? Tomorrow? This afternoon, or YIKES, in the middle of the night? Are we prepared? Good luck with that.
It is now 2020….and the beat goes on….
OK, are we in a pandemic or not? Do we need to have every country infected before WHO will get off their backsides and call it? By definition, the new Coronavirus has crossed borders, states, countries, and continents. What else do we need for it to be recognized as upfront and personal everywhere?
I’m a microbiologist and have just finished a creepy book on pandemics, co-authored with a famous epidemiologist. Unfortunately, it is in the long lineup to be published. So here we are, living the last chapter of that book which is entitled “For Whom the Bell Tolls”.
I wrote that chapter over three years ago and now it is coming to rest. What do we do IF? Frankly, we are living the IF. But so many Americans especially are lulled into smartphone tweets, and the latest fear-based info that the press has finally decided to spew. But guess what? Most of it isn’t “fake news”. We are no longer living in a world of NON-Communication. During the last big pandemic of flu or at least the most famous inappropriately called “The Spanish Flu”, there were no flutes and whistles of direct communication worldwide. Hence the misnomer, by the way. It wasn’t Spain’s fault.
The Covid19 virus is now the official title of our current visitor. Maybe the Corona beer company litigated. In any event, we are all rapidly trained as sheep to accept all the news and statistics. I don’t. I will often repeat: Something smells. The numbers are off, the response is inadequate if not extraordinarily flawed. But I also know that there are courageous reporters of current facts as we know them…Chris Martenson is one of them. He is tireless in his daily reports and I agree with most. Maybe the mortality isn’t as bad as the creeping Ebola surges but dead is dead whatever percentage. And then we linger at those who count their stocks decline as an indication ….shame on you. Get off your butts and stop worrying about money and look at where things are going.
The disturbing fact is that this virus can be anything from asymptomatic to deadly in a heartbeat or it can stretch out symptoms for almost 3 weeks so far and potentially shed the virus after being released from quarantine. That translates to one thing that everyone needs to understand: Crowds, incubator experiences like closed planes, trains, and cruise ships are a great means of putting people in close proximity and jeopardy. I love the BART in the California Bay area, but YIKES, I wouldn’t be on any rapid travel situation at all for now.
Hence why I gave this blog the title “Stay the Heck Put!”. I know, we have to go to school and work, we have to feed our families, we have to attend church, we have to pay extreme attention. Right now, we all need to STOP and realize that this is a serious situation, a potential plague at our doorstep. Keep kids home if they aren’t well. Don’t go to work if you are sick. It isn’t cool. It isn’t wise and it is dangerous to everyone else.
If this was the bubonic plague or smallpox, buboes (those creeping swelling that gave bubonic plague its name) and the pox of smallpox were obvious and easily observed in the community. The herd controlled the herd as best that they knew how.
Isolation could be achieved by staying at home. Don’t get me started on the boarding up of houses in Europe during the plague. Here, we are determined to live life in the normal way and not give up a thing, including cruises, and trips abroad.
Our little friend Covid19 is trying to teach us a lesson and that is to follow safety precautions. China and its way overused term “draconian” methods, started too late in the piece. The rest of the spread is due to people from China or the magic of invisible spread on uncontrolled situations such as airline travel.
I have written about Ebola but the best story I ever heard was from Dr. Bill Close’s book “Ebola” which covered the first response to the first outbreak in Sudan. No one knew the cause. No one knew the why, but people were dropping dead of hemorrhagic disease. The African chiefs figured it out: Hammer up fences around the villages infected: NO IN NO OUT. Did this method stop the spread? Maybe not, but it slowed it down. People and rituals and loving families had to change their ways to stay alive.
With the advent of rapid global travel, any bug anywhere can hitchhike and reach another shore in hours. The respiratory viruses are the best at that mode of dissemination.
Covid19 has a low mortality rate, but people still die. The immuno-compromised and elders are allegedly at the highest risk. That could change. But for now, we have the possibility of our good ole US of A getting it spread rapidly as well.
Singapore has a great idea: Fine or jail the folks that break quarantine or go snotting out into public. Draconian??? They GET IT. Control is control and it has to be obeyed. All the Kumbaya folks that want their freedom and won’t listen, need to move to Mars. It is time to hunker down and behave and LISTEN to reason.
As for the testing: I called a friend who speaks fluent immunology: There’s no Ag/Ab lateral flow rapid Dx test for covid19 so the world is stuck with a molecular test that can only be done in bigger labs. On top of that, the test formulation that CDC put out had at least one non-optimal PCR primer set.
What is the bottom line for those of us that don’t have a Ph.D. in Molecular biology? We still won’t have rapid testing for awhile. It isn’t some dark super cosmic conspiracy plan for dissemination of population by not testing. It boils down to the fact that we have once again been caught with our pants down….insufficient preparation. I’ll be fair and also say that each new virus requires its own specific test. But that oversimplifies the issue. Until we can have proper rapid testing on-site wherever there are people who have been symptomatic or exposed, we are all at invisible risk. This bug can fool everyone.
So rug up, pour yourself a glass of wine, or herbal tea, and wait it out. Wash your hands a hundred times a day, singing a happy birthday song twice (that is real research-proven info), spray or wash down doorknobs, handles, and yes wear an N95 mask if you are in a crowded place. An N95 has a HEPA filter inside the mask. They are the ones that vaguely make one look like Porky Pig. But there are restrictions on time use and proper installation. They won’t last for days and they won’t help if they are not placed tightly on the face. Scenes of people in line with masks below their noses ….well….need I say more?
Oh yes, spray down that beloved cuddle device you haul everywhere in and out of restrooms….your smartphone.
So here we are: what do we do? THINK before you act. Don’t sign up for big crowd fests and closed-in flights and cruises. Sure, maybe they’ve fixed the shared air in plane cabins but they haven’t fixed people that sneeze and cough in crowded cabins. By the way, thank you airlines for putting more seats in for your economic increase. We now are like flying sardines. Nix the drink service and carry your own water and food. Thank you, Southwest for spearheading this tradition.
I’m the first to get bored with isolation, but it is time to hunker down and hunker well until this thing is over. If you have to travel, and it is at all possible, do a road trip, listen to NPR or my beloved pastime Books on CD or MP3. But stay home if you can.
Get some food and supplies in but don’t go crazy and hoard. You will be the draconian one if you do. Oh and pray your socks off that our dear government has provided for SURGE CONTROL: That means: will there be enough beds, hospitals, medical staff, medical supplies, and medicines. Ask your politician who is running for office if there is Surge control in place. I can’t wait to hear the answer to that very significant question.
And it ain’t over yet, baby, it ain’t over yet.