Does anyone remember necrotising fasciitis? An absolutely horrible disease that runs, very fast, under your skin using the lymphatic system. The only hope you had was to be literally skinned alive and face months of skin grafts afterwards – and that’s only if you survived it. It killed in a matter of hours once it took off so very early diagnosis was absolutely essential.
That was a bacterium. Antibiotics would work but you just didn’t have time for tests. It would take a couple of days to work out the best antibiotic and you’d be dead by then. There were tales of people literally dissolving on train journeys. Which never happened, of course.
That disease was a rare one and killed a total of eight people one year. The media frenzy was astonishing. People genuinely believed they would melt on the way to work.
Then we had swine flu, Ebola, and so many others that were going to end the human race and somehow didn’t.
Now we have coronavirus. It’s a virus. Antibiotics will do nothing at all to it. Antibiotics work by messing up some aspect of cell metabolism and viruses have no metabolism. There’s also no vaccine because there are so many variants. Basically, if it gets in, you have an infection.
This latest one started in China. It’s now global. This, like all the other infections blamed on climate change, has nothing at all to do with climate change. It has everything to do with modern human mobility – and no, I definitely do not advocate us returning to the horse and cart mode of transport.
It’s even appeared in Scotland. I live in Scotland. Am I terrified? Nah. I’m a smoker and a drinker and if you believe the hype, those things each give me a 50% chance of dying from them so I’m doomed anyway. This latest coronavirus is killing 3% of those that catch it. It’s an amateur. Diptheria, typhoid fever, many other currently extant diseases are laughing at it.
Oh I know it’s cold comfort if you happen to be one of the 3% but you know, you’re much more likely to be one of the 97% who catch it and survive.
Even more likely to be one of the very many who never get it at all. Like all these terrible pandemics, it’s being hyped as the End of Humanity. I doubt any other species on the planet takes such delight in imagining themselves being eradicated from existence. Still, as a horror writer, it’s a useful trait to have in the audience.
There are many videos of people wearing dust masks in the streets. Viruses are not dust. Viruses are so small you can’t see them with a microscope because they are smaller than the wavelengths of visible light. A dust mask, to a virus, is like driving a truck into the mouth of a large volcano. It’s not even going to touch the sides. Those dust masks serve only one purpose – to make people think they are safe.
Of course, you can’t provide people with filter masks that could stop viruses. The holes in the filter would be so small you would have trouble breathing through them. What you need is a multi-layer filter which would still not be perfect but which would be a hell of a lot better. A fluted, deep multi-layer filter fitted into a rubber mask that covers your nose and mouth would be the best thing here.
You know. The sort of thing an ex-microbiologist who’s spent a career working with pathogens and who has recently closed his lab might have lying about in his shed 😉
It’s a little sobering to recall that I visited China almost 30 years ago. It was work, not a holiday, so I was treated to genuine backstreet Chinese restaurants. When I came back, after ten days, I had lost ten pounds in weight and was, for one of the few times in my life, actually pretty trim.
Was I sick from the food? No. The food was wonderful. Not at all like the Westernised junk we get here. I lost weight because of the Chinese way of eating. The food is on plates on a lazy-susan in the centre of the table and all you ever have on the tiny plate in front of you is what you are about to eat right now. You stop when you’ve had enough. There is no mound of food on a plate that you have to clear. You take a little bit at a time.
Okay, some of the food was a bit strange. I tried it all anyway, even dog. Yes, I had to take rabies shots before going to China and they were pointless. They’d eaten all the dogs.
Of course, dogs aren’t the only carriers of rabies. Bats are another potent source. But I didn’t get offered bat, fortunately. Nor was I offered live baby rat nor the still-writhing remains of a squid. I have eaten most things, even steak cheval (in France) but bats, rats and the still wriggling seafood would have been a challenge.
I did manage to disgust them by eating a raw garlic clove and telling them what was in haggis. Yes, I managed to eat something that made the Chinese go ‘Ewww!’ I should have that on my gravestone, I think.
Now we are regaled by images of a Chinese man eating live baby rats and the tale of a Chinese woman who ate a whole bat. I don’t know why that’s remarkable, bats aren’t generally all that big. This dietary regime, apparently, is the cause of all ills. Well, as a smoker, I’m happy to have a day off from that particular blame game. Let the foodies have it for a while.
The Chinese have always eaten this way. With that size of population you eat what you can get and that has been true for a very long time. It really isn’t the fault of the Chinese people that coronavirus mutated into a new form. It does that all the time, and it’s not the only virus to do it. Rhinovirus is especially adept at it, which is why there is no cure for the common cold (that, and the fact it’s hardly up there with the ’cause of death’ crowd).
So yes, this is a nasty virus and it spreads easily, just like colds and flu. It’s going to be a horrible experience to get it and there is a 3% chance it might kill you. There’s also a 97% chance it won’t.
Take simple precautions, just as you would when there’s a cold or flu going around, and chances are you’ll never catch it at all. Don’t put your trust in dust masks, they won’t help in the slightest.
I think it might be time to put out an anti-hysteria infection book, perhaps with ‘Don’t Panic’ in large, friendly letters on the cover.