I want to preface this post with a personal note. I lost a friend last week. He was a craftsman, used to lugging lumber and ladders, fit and trim, no pre-existing conditions, suddenly dead from a massive heart attack.
Previously, he had been infected with Covid. One of the things that the Covid virus is known to do is to attack a node in the heart that regulates the speed of heartbeats. Tachycardia is the term for heart rates of 100 beats or more per minute. When the rate gets high enough, the chambers of the heart fail to fill with blood between beats and blood and oxygen flow in the body stops. The results is massive organ failure and death, the same as with a complete coronary artery blockage. As with an aneurysm, unless you are already in a hospital when the event occurs, your chance of survival is very close to zero.
In the US medical system, when someone gets old enough or the cause of death seems “obvious”, there is no further investigation to determine exactly what happened. This death will be ascribed to heart failure although that failure may well have been caused by the virus.
Bluntly, once you are infected with a virus, there is no evidence that it ever leaves. The symptoms may disappear but other symptoms may occur randomly during your life. We know that’s true with Lyme Disease and the chickenpox virus, but now it seems to be true of others as well.
We’re still learning about viruses, even the ones that have been around for decades. What we thought we knew in many cases is wrong.
- We don’t have a good handle on the number of cases. With polio and Monkeypox, doctors have little experience and there is a steady beat of information regarding misdiagnosis. With Monkeypox, diagnostic errors resulting in delayed treatment can be fatal, especially among children. Doctors know Covid and there are rapid tests that, while not completely accurate, can help to confirm diagnoses based on observation.
- We don’t have a profile of who gets these viruses. If Monkeypox were a “gay” disease, children wouldn’t be getting it, but they are. We do know that people who aren’t fully vaccinated for these diseases are vulnerable.
- We do know that people can carry these diseases without displaying symptoms. Wastewater samples from the US, UK and Israel suggest a much larger number of people are carrying these diseases than have been positively identified.
- We also know that there is no cure for any of these diseases. With Covid, symptoms may disappear, but tests of fecal matter has shown the continued presence of the virus in the absence of symptoms. With polio, treatment has only changed incrementally since the last major outbreak in the early 1950s, focusing on managing symptoms and not on the virus itself. The same is true of Monkeypox, which has been around for years but never posed a significant global threat to humans until now. In the past, the industrialized world has largely ignored diseases that were localized to Asia or Africa. That sort of hubris can no longer be justified.
- Vaccines are designed the prevent infection, not cure an infection already present.
What was true 50 years ago is still true: we don’t know how to kill viruses short of killing the host in which they live (aka you).
Polio is a special case. With polio, there is both a live virus vaccine and an inactivated virus vaccine. Only the latter is used in the US. Defects in manufacture of the live virus vaccine caused cases of polio in the 1950s, but both types are in use and considered safe and effective today.
With Covid, the vaccines were created using genetic editing of virus fragments. At no time, was a complete live virus present in any of these vaccines. There is a new and recently approved vaccine developed using traditional methods, but it’s still not a live virus.
With Monkeypox, there is a limited supply of traditionally-developed vaccine. We know that it can be spread through contact with the body fluids of someone who is infected, including fluid seeping from the skin rash. However, we really don’t know how else it might be spread. As with the HIV virus, where early thinking boxed it as a gay male disease and proved to be wrong, labeling Monkeypox as a sexually transmitted disease is wrong as well. Even the name is misleading. Early research into this virus involved monkeys, but it has little to do with them. The WHO is looking to rename the virus.
Like the seasonal flu, viruses mutate. That’s something that happens in nature. Having a large pool of unvaccinated hosts helps mutation along.
Why are the US, UK and Israel hot spots for viruses among economically advanced countries? One contributing factor is the use of religious exemptions to avoid vaccination. Unfortunately, people die at a fairly consistent rate regardless of religion, and the lack of vaccination simply serves to insure that they have company in death.
If viruses can be thought of as having some form of higher purpose (unlikely), then that purpose might well be to reduce the number of humans on this planet. Do you want to be one of those killed off?
All we can do is to try to avoid getting infected. In context, masking is a very low price to pay to avoid years of potential hardship.
If you’re not going to take precautions, make sure you have adequate life insurance.