In the 80’s a fellow teacher and I put together a multi-disciplinary unit based on Hot Zone, a book by Richard Preston written about an Ebola outbreak. In this true story, monkeys imported from Asia to Reston, Virginia for research purposes were suddenly getting sick. Originally, the monkey handler didn’t know what was going on and actually took a dead monkey or two, put it in his trunk, and disposed of it somewhere in the wild. Eventually, a researcher realized this disease was spreading to other monkeys, but how? Was it in the air, the water, or the result of the monkeys reaching through the bars? (You’ll want to read this book to find out!)
Last December spotty information was coming out of China indicating that people were getting sick, LOTS of people, but no one here seemed to be panicking. That’s a long way from where we are, right? But two and three months later, the United States is caught up in one of the worst pandemics this country has ever seen. Who knew this was coming? What do we pay the commander in chief for? Why didn’t China share the information immediately? And now, where are the needed medical supplies that the talking heads tell us daily are out there but the general public says are not?
Our commander in chief said not to panic, “It will pass,” but when one doesn’t know if this thing is in the water, in the air, or being spread person to person, what else can we do but panic? I personally feel zero percent confident that even IF anyone at the highest levels of our government knew what was going on, that you or I would be told the truth. ZERO. Now that’s a very scary position to be in.
Here’s a look at a very few contagions that remind us that these types of viruses and pandemics have been going on for a very long time. If you check Google, you will find a multitude of medieval and later epidemics, pandemics, and just plain nasty viruses that have made impressive appearances.
1348: Bubonic or Black Plague in Florence, Italy. It took something like five years to figure out that this bacteria was spread by fleas that bite infected animals, jump on a passerby, and voila, a day or so later the person’s skin develops buboes, or lumpy lymph nodes, a fever, chills, and maybe a headache. An animal bite could also spread this to a human. Although most remaining cases are in Africa now, the United States STILL sees a few cases of this each year, usually in Southwestern states.
1918-1920: Spanish Flu, one of the deadliest influenzas in recent memory, H1N1, picked up steam by teaming up with a bird flu. You can read about this one in Fever 1918. Infecting about 500 million people all over the globe, roughly ten percent died of all ages. This one still circulates. I contracted H1N1 while teaching a few years ago.
1957-1958: Asian Flu, H2N2, originated in China and spread to the United States. Approximately 70,000 deaths occurred in people of all ages. We are told that anyone less than 65 years of age would most likely not have had the antibodies to fight it off. The following year Hong Kong flu, H3N2, took the lead. Do you think this year’s pandemic will outpace the Asian Flu of 1957?
1976: Ebola: Reston virus causes disease in primates and pigs while the Ebola virus was first discovered in a river near the Democratic Republic of Congo. Outbreaks in W. Africa are ongoing, with victims suffering fever, aches, pains, internal bleeding leading to vomiting or coughing up blood. Researchers worked to find out how this virus was infecting so many people in the 70’s and 80’s and found a link between bats eating fruit, pooping, fruit falling and pigs eating the excrement or fruit, and then people eating the pigs. Gross, I know. Do we ever know where our food really comes from?
1980s and ongoing: HIV/AIDS: Human Immunodeficiency Virus/Acquired Immunodeficiency Syndrome can last for years for those who contract it through sexual activity, sharing needles, or by mother to baby spread. There is no cure for this one. Sufferers get flu-like symptoms which progress to weight loss, fever, night sweats and tiredness. Scientists have determined that there is a connection between HIV-1, chimpanzees, and the virus crossing species. Epidemiology would be a very interesting field of study.
2020: So here we go today with Corona Virus, CoVid19. Let’s see if we can follow the proper guidelines, quarantine ourselves, practice social distancing, and get this monster under control. I have no idea what the numbers will be when I update this post, but I do know that my family is doing everything within our powers to keep ourselves and others safe from this deadly contagion that is sweeping our world right now.
I hope you are finding ways to confine yourself to home. Reading, writing, calling, cleaning out drawers, closets or bookshelves, gardening, walking, playing games, blogging, quilting, whatever it may be for you. Imagine you are an Olympic athlete and this is your task. Can you live up to the challenge for a couple of months? If you do, you will become part of Team America, one of the greatest teams I know of!