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A Prevention Program for Hubris?

A World Out of Balance

by KATHLEEN WALLACE

So there’s another unarmed black kid killed, a Missouri town that you can’t even fly over lest you spot some militarized mayhem below. No solution for people in the open air prison of Gaza. 7 year olds holding severed heads. What could possibly be missing? Of course, of course. Ebola. I knew there was something missing.

It’s another one of those as above, so below cases (and I mean really below, as in microscopic). The unbalance of it all is incredible. We carry so many microbial beings on us, the bacteria and viruses. We don’t even truly clot our blood adequately until friendly forms of E-coli make themselves at home in our gut, producing the Vitamin K needed in the clotting pathway. Our health depends on the 3-6 pounds of microbes sharing our space. I’m sorry if it seems gross. We are a little like our own planetary systems with inhabitants. Some thought is even out there that the true reason for the appendix is to form a little blind alley that in the event of something catastrophic like dysentery (that wipes out the good bacteria from so much purging)…… the appendix can function as a repository of the little guys that can seed the cleared out gut again in a beneficial manner. Kind of like the Svalbard Global Seed Vault.

So we have done the kill a village to save a village thing with antibiotics. So many years of people showing up at the doctor’s office with a simple viral issue being given an antibiotic that kills fairly indiscriminately. It’s basically a scorched earth policy. The antibiotics don’t help with the virus, and just contribute to overall resistance of bacteria, wiping out the good guys just trying to earn a living. The hoodlum bacteria often survive. This is how bad it has become……. The use of antibiotics can wipe out the normal balance of beneficial versus toxic bacteria. You can end up with ones like C-difficile in charge of your intestines. And this can cause diarrhea so hideous that you might die (or at least want to). It can actually erode out your intestines. But you know there’s an answer medical science has come up with for those with absolutely no improvement from traditional therapy. Fecal transplant. I did not make that up. We have become so unbalanced in our world that this (actually pretty freaking clever) thing is sometimes required. Okay, I don’t know if a stalwart dude with a thermos full of crap is running through the hospital with a serious and determined look. “Transplant material coming through, clear my passage now!” I think this is exactly how it goes down. They take healthy crap from a person and well…..transplant it into another to help them gain a beneficial mix of microbial denizens–ones that out-compete the C-diff. You have to think, how unbalanced has it all become when we actually need shit transplants sometimes in response to previous treatments? I mean, I could imagine some old-timey phrenologist saying, hey—at least when I screwed up, nobody needed a shit transplant.

Europeans have always been pretty damn gross. The great plagues of the time seem to always be traced back to squalor and creepy living close to animals that you eat. I’m talking sketchy close. The Americas were a cleaner place. True, they only domesticated a few things like guinea pigs, dogs, alpaca, turkeys…….while Europeans were living with pigs under the house and possibly in their beds. It is completely amazing that the invader culture of the Europeans had no self awareness of their own filth, and in one of the established and documented not fucking fair! episodes of history, actually wiped out a lot of competitors just from the “these go to 11″ levels of foulness they carried. Living in close, nasty quarters with animals makes the jump of terrible illnesses occur. And Europe had that going on for ages.

Microbes are terribly promiscuous, exchanging genetic material with one another. One day a friendly E-coli gets familiar with some other bacteria that has some special and frighting qualities like the ability to zap your kidneys and suddenly kids die from their hamburgers. I’m blaming Europe for a lot of the nasty, but of course the black death probably skirted over from Asia and similar nasty living. Squalor was the key.

And today we have a modern no-thought-out-consequences disgusting situation, as well —that of corporate meat production. Some conditions are so disgusting that antibiotics are necessary just to keep the animals alive long enough to grow and eat. It’s another filthy, cruel practice that will have ramifications and probably already did, considering that swine flu business from a few years ago. Animals packed tightly, their whole lives never seeing sunlight except perhaps that day trip they get to the slaughterhouse.

Ebola is a virus, not a bacteria, but the same level of unbalance in nature is a threat with this. And I don’t think there is certainty as far as what the natural host for ebola is. They kind of think it is a fruit bat. Indiana Jones types (well, I think they probably fancy themselves this way) jaunt about, taking samples of bat guano, various animal blood and such, trying to figure it all out. There is generally a host in nature that does not have the severe mortality that plagues another species, but carries the disease. It is just the way nature works in an attempt to spread the virus as effectively as possible. But the open trade routes, the fullness of putting trade over safety is the contribution that is the frightener in this tale, creating modern plague possibilities. Previous outbreaks seem to have been dealt with in a tribal manner, in that passage between villages was denied in areas of illness. As in…… you might be killed for breaking through these lines. This did allow for the brush-fire nature of the illness to lose fuel and die out prior to wiping out huge numbers of villages. This does not seem to be the plan of attack for the brilliant modern world. And hearing tales of healthcare workers becoming ill is jarringly distressing as they should be quite aware how to avoid catching a strictly contact isolation needed pathogen such as this. It does make one wonder if there has been a little virus promiscuity with something a bit more transmissible. That gets into nightmare territory if it is the case. Perhaps the infected healthcare workers can be explained by some of them believing more in God than personal protective gear and they took some chances they shouldn’t have. I hope that is the case.

These things have been concerns for quite some time. If you’ve ever seen old bricks that have stamped on them “No spitting on the sidewalk”, it was not because of a genteel request for polite society. This was an attempt to curtail the spreading of tuberculosis (or consumption as they called it). The little bacteria are coated in such a manner that allows them to hang around and not dry out for quite some time as most bacteria will do. Eventually the flecks of the stuff can be inhaled and set up condos in the lungs. So spitting is uber-rude when you have those acid fast bacilli living in you. I like the message of the bricks just in general though. Seems ridiculous to have to ask! Maybe we all need patios with “don’t be passive-aggressive”, “please turn out the lights when you leave the room”, “don’t invite alcoholics to open bar weddings”…..all sorts of potential work for brick-makers and masons–producing helpful tip bricks.

What is to be learned from all of this? Well, if you have all your faith in a medical system that can get you so fucked up that you might need a shit transplant, maybe consider larger prevention. Keeping yourself as healthy as possible so as not to be a marvelous host. Oh, yeah….you shouldn’t live with pigs, although I’m guessing your homeowner’s association has a bylaw against that anyway. But maybe you shouldn’t eat that cheap meat that only comes from a squalid and evil delivery system. Just thoughts. And our governments, always there to provide the worst of rules, but not the common sense ones…… putting trade above lives, allowing flights in and out of at-risk areas. That’s the huge issue here. Really hubris is probably the biggest threat to world health at this moment. A prevention program for that affliction would probably be the cure. And by that I mean, The Cure (for all of it). Try to stay healthy.

Kathleen Wallace lives in the Midwest.