Viruses and the Human Organism

By now it shouldn’t come as any surprise that I have reservations about this whole quarantine situation. There are just too many repercussions that are being ignored, such as people who are in lockdown with their abusers and no way to escape, or rich people who are fleeing infested cities and bringing diseases to places that would normally be safe.

Another repercussion that few people are discussing is what will happen when people are once more free to mingle. Unless there were a significant number of cases of people who got The Bob and recovered (and no, there aren’t such cases because there simply is not a great enough percentage of people who are getting sick), there is still a chance of a second upsurge. Some epidemiologists say that flattening the curve will prolong the disease, but so far, no one is saying what will happen when people are again doing “nonessential” activities, such as getting together with family and friends.

Another thing that no one is talking about is the danger of isolating people.

Viruses are everywhere, in fact, they are perhaps the most common being on earth. There are an estimated 10 nonillion of them (10 to the 31st power.) Without viruses and their ability to move genetic material from one cell to another, life on Earth might never have evolved. Among those nonillions of viruses, only a small fraction, way less than 1%, are dangerous to humans. Most seem rather benign. Others are actually beneficial, and help our immune system. For example, some viruses infect and destroy dangerous bacteria in our bodies. Other viruses protect against harmful viruses. Some have actually become part of the human genome.

Even harmful viruses are good in that viral infections, especially at a young age, help develop the immune system. If children are prevented from getting sick, they are much more vulnerable to disease as they grow older.

It is the benign viruses that move from person to person, exchanging cell materials between people who are close, such as husband and wife, that makes grief for a spouse so hard. Not only does it feel as if we have been severed from our other half, we have, in actuality, been severed. Because of the visceral nature of grief, three to four years seems to be the half-life of grief. Our cells are continuously dying and being renewed. If it takes seven years for all the cells in one’s body to be renewed, then at two years, most of our cells still bear the imprint of our deceased mate. At four years, less than half our cells bear their imprint. At seven years, we are solely ourselves.

Viral exchanges are a way of communication, body to body. It’s a way of keeping a community unified and healthy. You don’t always have to get sick to become immune to a disease — if someone close to you is immune, their immunity can be conferred on you via benign viruses. If you stop viral communication, what will happen? I don’t know. No one knows, though it’s possible that when people are allowed out among others again, not just The Bob will have an upsurge, but so will other diseases.

Although no one asked me, I would have suggested protecting the vulnerable and letting everyone else lead their lives. Some people would have gotten sick, but for most people, The Bob is relatively benign, no more than a cold, if that. Many people who are infected, show no symptoms at all.

The human aggregate is an organism. Are we damaging the organism by these draconian measures? Probably not, since the lockdowns won’t be that long, all things considered, but if it went on too long, groups who developed immunities to certain ailments could infect others who haven’t developed such immunities.

It’s hard finding out the truth in this time of “fake news” since any idea or research that goes against or beyond the party line are labeled fake, when in fact, what we are told is “truth” might be less than true.

Still, I can’t help but wonder if there would have been a better solution to this situation than by isolating everyone, not just the vulnerable.

***

Pat Bertram is the author of Grief: The Inside Story – A Guide to Surviving the Loss of a Loved One. “Grief: The Inside Story is perfect and that is not hyperbole! It is exactly what folk who are grieving need to read.” –Leesa Healy, RN, GDAS GDAT, Emotional/Mental Health Therapist & Educator.

2 Responses to “Viruses and the Human Organism”

  1. Sam Sattler Says:

    There’s a lot to think about in this one, Pat. I wonder if we will ever learn the whole truth about this particular virus’s origin or what the death and infection rates really were in countries like China and Russia, among others. Heck, we may never know how many people were infected even in this country because of the testing-lag that we’ve already been through. How many thousands had it and recovered easily on their on, I wonder. Maybe the antibody testing that’s still to come will one day better approximate that number for us.

    I can’t wait to see how many good books come from this experience, both fiction and nonfiction. I can easily imagine numerous dystopian-like scenarios, psychological thrillers, and literary novels resulting, not to mention all the exposés that are likely to result.

    I HAD to go out this morning to replenish some of the things we’ve run out of, and I was appalled that only about one-third of the people in the grocery store were masked. I know that masking is still a little controversial, but our low participation rate still surprised me. After all, the greater Houston area has roughly 3500 cases and 70 deaths now. What does it take to get through to people? Thankfully, I will not have to go out again for at least a week.

    Stay well, Pat.

    • Pat Bertram Says:

      Funny, but it’s surprised me how many people here are wearing masks. There has not been even one case in the entire county, though there might have been a flare-up at the beginning of the year before they started counting cases. Like you, I won’t have to go out for at least a week, so I’m glad about that.


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