Tuesday, August 16, 2022

Mobile, Alabama: COVID-19 Unfolding, Part 8888: A Mental Reset


Mural, Navi Mumbai, India. Source: Think Global Health
Mural, Navi Mumbai, India. Source: Think Global Health

My old assumption:  The pandemic will end.

My current assumptions

COVID, because it is a virus, and (arguably) a life form, has an innate drive to survive. On top of that, COVID seems to be extraordinarily talented at adapting to new obstacles to achieve its mandate to survive, thrive, and reproduce. I am reminded of an old article from the Atlantic Monthly, which considers new-at-the-time thinking on infection in Parts 1, 2, and 3 of the series, A New Germ Theory, which focuses on the work of scientist Paul Ewald. Pretty damn fascinating, which is why I have remembered it all these years. 

A core concept from the series: 

"Say you're a disease organism -- a rhinovirus, perhaps, the cause of one of the many varieties of the common cold; or the mycobacterium that causes tuberculosis; or perhaps the pathogen [for] diarrhea. Your best bet is to multiply inside your host as fast as you can. However, if you produce too many copies of yourself, you'll risk killing or immobilizing your host before you can spread. If you're the average airborne respiratory virus, it's best if your host is well enough to go to work and sneeze on people in the subway.

"Now imagine that host mobility is unnecessary for transmission. If you're a germ that can travel from person to person by way of a "vector," or carrier, such as a mosquito or a tsetse fly, you can afford to become very harmful. This is why, Ewald argues, insect-borne diseases such as yellow fever, malaria, and sleeping sickness get so ugly. Cholera uses another kind of vector for transmission: it is generally waterborne, traveling easily by way of fecal matter shed into the water supply. And it, too, is very ugly."


A conjecture: There are ugly surprises ahead for just how pernicious this virus is in its skill at insinuating itself in the nooks and crannies of our neurological and cardiac systems, irrespective of the mildness or severity of a person's infection(s). We already know it goes into these areas. We already know it does have some effects, for some people, some of the time, to a greater or lesser degree, for a longer or shorter duration. 

A wild-ass thought experiment: As an almost-life-long science fiction fangirl (and before that, before I knew science fiction existed, a fairy tale and mythology fan) ....... 

Sometimes I wonder if any ancient pandemics such as this, created by novel-at-the-time viruses, changed the course of our anthropological, i.e. biological/sociological/intellectual trajectories, as a consequence of mutations that occurred from viruses that wormed their way into our brains, modifying them. 

In other words, are we who we are today (well, who we were in 2019), as a result of one or more ancient novel viral inundations?  And if the answer is yes, then wouldn't such a phenomenon be possible again?

No comments: