Tag Archive 'virus'

Mar 16 2020

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The Dark Side of Nature

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When people call themselves nature lovers, what usually springs to mind are golden sunsets, glistening rainbows, magnificent mountains and sublime landscapes, along with the many wondrous plants and animals that inhabit our planet. But nature has its dark side, as well. Even venomous creatures, poisonous plants and severe weather events have their fans. But life-threatening microbes are hard to love. Foremost among these are viruses, which have caused humanity untold grief through the millennia.

Today humankind is under assault by a severe variety of coronavirus called Covid-19. It is similar to SARS-CoV and MERS, two other 21st century coronaviruses that have transmuted to us from animal viruses. With an incubation period between 2 and 14 days, and a mortality rate somewhere between 1% and 4%, this is a particularly nasty bug that spreads faster than the flu. According to the World Health Organization website, over 168,000 people in 148 countries and territories have been infected to date, with roughly 6,600 deaths. And these numbers are increasing exponentially. Cause for concern, to say the least.

The World Health Organization declared Covid-19 a pandemic last Thursday. This virus has become so widespread that containment is pretty much out of the question. Humankind now has to mitigate the effects of the spread of the disease. Most importantly, we must avoid a potential spike in infections so that our health care system isn’t overwhelmed by it. The goal here is to lessen the overall mortality rate. The best way to do that is social distancing – staying away from each other for several weeks or more. China went into lockdown a month ago. To flatten out the spike in infections to a mound over time, the rest of the world will have to do something similar. That won’t be easy, and the consequences of this could be economically catastrophic.

As someone who values freedom and mobility, I am not happy about any of this, but I understand the necessity of it. So I am hunkering down. I will do my best to stay out of social settings during the next few weeks, anyhow. Spring is upon us. I intend to spend more time outdoors, in what my friend Walt Franklin calls “the society of trees,” minimizing any kind of interaction with other people for a while. And if enough people do the same, then perhaps this particularly dark side of nature won’t be so dark.

For more information about this disease in the United States, visit the CDC website.

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Mar 31 2016

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Nature’s Spoilers

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virusMy big plans to take advantage of spring’s early arrival were confounded by the smallest biological entity. I came down with the flu a week ago. Yessir, big old brainy me, Homo sapiens, dropped by a mere virus – something that doesn’t have a single living cell to call its own.

Flu season is peaking late in Vermont, or so I’ve been told. I haven’t really been paying attention. You see, I got a flu shot last fall so I had nothing to worry about. Anyway, I started sneezing last Thursday – what I thought was book dust – and landed on my back a couple days later. I ended up in the doctor’s office yesterday, getting meds to fight a secondary infection.

Why do viruses exist? What purpose do they serve in the grand scheme of things that we call Nature? They’re just puny protein packets hellbent on replicating at someone else’s expense – the punks of the universe. From my higher-life-form worldview, they’re no damned good. But there are strains of bacteria, like the ones throwing a party in my lungs right now, that see things differently. My loss is their gain.

The fact that I’m even having these thoughts is a sure sign that I’m feeling better. Hooray for antibodies – the proteins wearing white hats! And antibiotics, too! Soon I’ll be on my feet again and taking a long hike somewhere. As far as my dog Matika is concerned, that day can’t come soon enough. Staying indoors all day is not her idea of fun.

 

 

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