March 25, 2020

Ring Around the Rosie

When I worked on the Hopi Reservation in the Nineties, I saw a few actual cases of Yersinia Pestis, better known as “The Plague”. Prairie dogs are the hosts in America, and occasionally a flea will jump onto a human and bite. Within a day or two, they get a swollen, red, pus filled lymph node called a “bubo”. Hence the name, bubonic plague. Fortunately, it is easily treatable with antibiotics, if diagnosed. And, also, fortunately for us, we are low risk to have Bubonic Plague come sweeping through the Americas like SARS-COV-2 is sweeping the world. Not enough Prairie Dogs. Oh, you ask, what about the Pneumonic Plague? That could spread fast and far through respiratory droplets, like SARS-COV-2, which seems almost impossible to contain. But somehow, this happens rarely, plus we have meds to treat it, if it did start to spread. Thus we no longer fear it.

And until tonight, I thought that the nursery song “Ring Around the Rosie” was about the Bubonic Plague. “Ring around the Rosie” (the redness and swelling in your lymph nodes in your groin and your armpits). “Pockets Full of Posies” (flowers to cover the smell and protect from the disease), and then, of course, “Ashes to Ashes, We all fall down”. Terrifying to live in the time of the Plague. Curses to for ruining my belief about the nursery rhyme.

We have had other infections that were dangerous killers after the Plague and before SARS-COV-2. We have always figured out a solution. Sometimes it took centuries, like smallpox, which was eradicated with a vaccination. Measles is mostly controlled, if people would only get vaccinated. Polio is almost gone, still a few isolated pockets of infection left. Antibiotics are helpful, Leprosy is rare due to antibiotics. Anitviral medications can cure Hepatitis C and treat HIV. Vaccines are lifesaving in ways that are now under appreciated, because we have lived in a world where we felt safe from infections. And now we are in the midst of a pandemic that is escalating, increasing fear, both from the virus itself and for economic consequences.

I write about these things, because, despite the dire numbers of cases, the exponential growth happening, the fear of the unknown, I know there are scientists world wide working for a solution. Truly a global response. New treatments are being tried, some treatments are being reused from 100 years before, vaccines are being tested already. Flattening the curve matters, there is good data to show that social distancing is helping to slow infections down, giving time to learn more about this novel virus and finding solutions. Hang in there and support each other through this.

Wash your hands and stay 6 feet away

And finally, my caveat is that this is my experience and my opinions, which are subject to change as more information is available, and not related to the organization I work for. Thanks for reading.