Infection projection

So the wasps have been eradicated, in case you were wondering.  We survived the weekend, and the good people from “Die You Mofo Wasps-R-Us” arrived promptly at noon today, so The Genealogist tells me.  Within 10 minutes they had the ladder up, and shot some wasp killer shiz into the hole and that was it.  Hell, I coulda done that!  Except, you know, it was wasps right?  And, well, ewww.  Anyway, apparently we’re not supposed to block up the hole for awhile, or that could force them inside.  More than they were already getting inside, I guess.  I never thought to find out what happens to the giant throbbing nest that seemingly fills our bathroom wall.  What if we want to to a bathroom renovation and tear out walls, redo drywall?  Again I say:  Eww.  People, I am really starting to wonder what else might be living in our walls.  We already have a theory about the guest room ceiling because it just doesn’t match up with the rest of the ceilings upstairs…ah, but that’s for another post.

Right now I really just want to talk about the non-winged scourge currently facing our planet.  Y’all know what I’m talking about right?  Big virus?  Vaccines being invented as we speak?  WHO on top of it like the plague it is?  That’s right, H1N1 is rocking the hizzouse and causing the crazy.  The hospital system where I work has today released Canada’s first bedside pandemic triage protocol, I have been fitted for a N95 respirator mask, hand sanitizer is everywhere and staff are being trained in case of a pandemic.

And can I just say?  I am giddy with anticipation.

Now, before you get all up in my bizness about my cold-heartedness, and possibly insanity, hear me out.  I don’t enjoy pandemics or wish at all  for people to get sick.  My excitement lies in the fact that I have a thing for infectious diseases – from a purely scientific point of view.  Which seems odd, I suppose, in that I am not a science-type person normally, but for some reason infectious diseases of all types fascinate me.

I have an undergraduate degree in history, and in my first year, I had a really excellent teaching assistant assigned to me.  She, at the time, was working on her doctorate, and her specialty was the history of medicine.  I was immediately enamoured both with her, and with the subject.  I did several papers over the course of my career related to disease – the Black Death, influenza and others – all with a social and cultural slant, how the disease affected society at the time, etc.  It made for some of the most fascinating reading and some of my better essays.  Likely because I enjoyed the topic so much (duh) and I would do extra readings just because. 

My excitement with how diseases spread – not only throughout the body (you probably wouldn’t have wanted to have me as a dinner guest during those heady years of my favourite subject) but throughout society, how they spread from region to region, crossed country borders and onward.  Of course now, through sciences like epidemiology, we can account for a lot of what went on and why, but reading personal accounts of people’s experiences were both remarkably interesting, and remarkably sad.  And it continues to fascinate me to this day.

I know there are conflicting ideas about this latest virus: that it’s nothing to worry about, that “Big Pharma” is snowing us all under with scare tactics and that governments are paying too much attention to H1N1 and ignoring other important illnesses.  And maybe that’s true.  I think though, that western society has kind of forgotten the damage a virus like influenza can do.  We have beaten so many infectious diseases – either through vaccine and/or better living conditions and sanitation, but they can continue to bubble under the surface, often never completely gone – remember when tuberculosis made a brief comeback a couple of years ago?  The same can be said for outbreaks of whooping cough, something we thought had gone the way of smallpox.  But then, maybe smallpox can reappear too?  We don’t really know for sure.  Then there is a virus like AIDS that is just as deadly, but because it was originally regarded as something that affected only certain societal groups, to a large percentage of the population, it has never really felt like a threat.  Infectious diseases do still exist in other parts of the world too, and with the amount of people flying back and forth all over the globe…well, there’s a lot that can happen.

So now we come to 2009 and H1N1.  Will it produce mass illness as the flu season gets underway?  It remains to be seen, but I know I will be taking all the precautions offered as it starts rolling along.  For all those who scoff at the idea of a pandemic, just remember that the Europeans in the 14th century probably felt the same way:  “It’s just a few rats, don’t worry about it.”

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