Sex, Drugs, and Public Health

September 9, 2020

The Snowflake and the Virus

Filed under: Uncategorized — cbmosher @ 2:33 pm


            February. The height of summer. A snowflake drifts down to land on Earth’s largest desert. He is joined, slowly, by dozens of others. They accumulate to hundreds and, over time, to trillions. Our snowflake and the air around him is buried beneath the trillions of others and crushed into an ice crystal with trapped air.

            He becomes part of the vast dome of ice that covers Antarctica’s mountains and active volcanos. An ice sheet up to three miles thick, composed of snowflakes millions years old.

             Someone decides to ask that little snowflake a question, so they drill deep into the dome and pull out a cylinder of ice and trapped air. Like reading the rings of a tree, researchers can discover the snow’s age at various depths, and the amount of carbon dioxide in the air at the time it fell. Readings now go back 800,000 years, which helps us understand the cycles of cooling and warming: periods of glaciation and inter-glacial periods of warming caused by increased carbon dioxide in the air at the time.

            These readings are a big part of why researchers are so worried about what’s going on now, as wildfires of California grow bigger and more frequent. And as hurricanes become more fierce.

            Carbon dioxide levels fluctuated from 180 PPM (glacial periods) to as high as 290 (warm periods) in eight cycles since 800,000 years ago. Current CO2 levels have soared to 414. Much higher than documented for hundreds of thousands of years before our industrialized society existed. The associated warming is melting Antarctic glaciers faster (my daughter and I saw this), thawing the northern permafrost and setting heat records (104 degrees in Siberia this year).

            What evidence for this do we see in Mariposa County?

            Cal-Fire reports that, of the 20 largest fires going back to 1932, 17 have occurred since 2000. The Second and Third largest are burning right now. Veteran firefighters say that the speed and ferocity with which our current fire complexes have spread is unprecedented.

            Fire season is becoming longer. Summer lightning storms ignite drier fuels as temperatures rise (a record set in Death Valley this month). It is so dry that previously burned areas are burning again, sooner than expected. Fires in and around Yosemite impact our economy. As mentioned last month, fire insurance is getting harder to obtain. And water is increasingly more rare and valuable, especially to the Central Valley. They may start eyeing foothill water.

              The rapidly changing climate is also bringing humans and wildlife into closer proximity. Grazing deer and turkeys may be cute, but mosquitos carry diseases. And Covid, we believe, came from wildlife.

             Bottom line – Climate Change is a massive Public Health problem. Which will attack our health and, like Covid, is only beginning to show all its impacts on us.


Precautionary Principle:  Even if you choose to believe that this is just part of a natural cycle, we DO have the power to slow down its rampant destruction.



                                                                                                                                  (photo by Sarah Mosher)

            The Virus, happily camped out in someone’s respiratory tract, gets dislodged by a laugh. A hearty guffaw perhaps, from a guy everyone likes. A guy with a good sense of humor. The virus shoots like a circus “human cannonball” into someone else’s face. One inhalation, and the virus has a new home.

            Thereafter, like all homeowners, the virus upgrades its digs. Deeper into various organs. Begins to raise its family in a cul-de-sac of the lungs, in the heart, in the kidneys. Eventually the cops arrive in the form of various segments of the Immune System, ordering eviction. But, from what we know so far (see prior articles) this virus and the response it triggers cause damage well beyond the lungs and for a much longer time than many other viral illnesses.

              The Immune System is much more complex than most shoppers of “Immune Boosting” vitamins understand. It includes antibodies (some circulating in blood, others fixed to cells), various cells including “white” granulocytes, B-lymphocytes, T-lymphocytes, macrophages (“phage” means to eat), and several organs including the spleen, lymph nodes, bone marrow, tonsils, thymus, and some mucous membranes.

               Sometimes the Immune System we depend on for life can become over-active (shall we say “boosted?”) or mis-directed, attacking the body itself and causing disease. For instance, Rheumatoid Arthritis, Lupus, Multiple sclerosis. It’s beginning to look like this may occur as a reaction to Covid also, which is why an immune-suppressing drug like Decadron can help.

               It remains to be learned what someone becoming “re-infected” with Covid means. Very preliminary information suggests that the re-infection doesn’t cause much illness. That would be good. But is the re-infected person a risk to others by transmitting? More study is needed.

              The FDA is the agency that protects our health by making certain any new drug, medical device or vaccine meets two standards: it must be safe; it must be effective. This takes a while – at least 18 months, Dr. Fauci told us. To accomplish this for us, the FDA must remain free of political pressure. As we anxiously await the arrival of a safe, effective vaccine for Covid, danger signals are cropping up. The FDA suddenly reversed its position on using convalescent serum (other people’s antibodies) against warnings of medical experts at the National Institutes of Health. It is reported that there was political pressure to make it available as an “Emergency Use Authorization” before completing the FDA process. At this point, such plasma may be safe, but its effectiveness is unproven.

               A similar thing happened recently with the CDC. Their recommendation for widespread testing (a proven method of getting control of the outbreak which has worked in many other countries) was suddenly modified to recommend not testing asymptomatic people, even if they’ve been exposed. We know you can be infected but not yet have symptoms AND that many cases have come from exposure to such people. This about-face, which medical experts called “potentially dangerous” was reported to have been directed by “the highest authorities.” Even though the decision was walked back, a pattern of political interference was obvious.

                The approaching election is increasing pressure on politicians. The FDA’s mission is to protect the health of Americans by vetting any vaccine thoroughly. If politics contaminates the FDA for the purpose of waving a vaccine in front of voters before it has been proven safe and effective, it could not only harm individuals, but also undermine confidence in the safety of many FDA-processed drugs and vaccines. So keep a sharp eye on the events surrounding a Covid vaccine.

                  There are currently nine Covid vaccines in testing in eight countries and another nine coming on-line. The World Health Organization and some public-private partnerships are facilitating the distribution of approved vaccine to ALL people, world-wide. The only way to control a Pandemic.

                  Back to Antarctica for Good News:  a psychologist at the University of Tasmania interviewed several Antarctic scientists who’d been in cooped-up isolation on the frozen continent. They reported an early phase of frenetic activity, a second phase of enjoying the peace and free time, and a third phase of loneliness, withdrawal and fantasies of wringing necks. Nevertheless, the subjects reported that, as bad as it got, they’d go back there again.


               Because there is a fourth phase: going thru the process of Antarctic lock-down resulted in positive personal growth. After the trauma of it, men reported becoming less insular, more willing to request help. Women became more self-confident. Interpersonal relationships improved.

               Chief among the reported effects were “a feeling of self-reliance,”  “I developed new interests” and “I discovered that I am stronger than I thought I was.” Some reported a Spiritual / Existential change such as “I have greater clarity about life’s meaning” “I feel more connected with all of existence” and “I have a stronger religious faith.” Moreover, this positive growth was long-term – perhaps, permanent.

            Food for Thought Time:

  1. Extrapolating to our Covid isolation, could we be approaching the phase of Personal Growth? A growth which, as with Antarctic scientists and astronauts on the space station, may be long-lasting. It’s certainly likely that the way we work, shop and go to school will be different. Will it be better?

  2. Why do few people squawk at Mandatory Evacuation Orders during a fire, but many foment rebellion when asked to cover their faces to protect their families and neighbors?

  1. If someone mingles in a public place (grocery store, Post Office, Farmer’s Market) with no face covering because of “medical reasons” are they less of a risk to you than a mask-less person who has no “medical reasons?”

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