Today, March 19 is the Vernal Equinox. This March Equinox is occurring differently from its occurrence for more than a century. 124 years ago, last time in 1896. There will be no celebrations of this early Spring Equinox due to the pandemic crisis of the Coronavirus. This pervasive viral disease is reshaping many aspects of life and is also happening during the Ides of March (March 15). The Ides of March became famous due to the assassination of Julius Caesar in 44 BC. This event caused massive confusion within the Roman government and its people resulting in a brutal civil war. A soothsayer tried to warn Caesar by saying “Beware the Ides of March”.
As the 2020 virus pandemic takes hold I ponder whether this ‘Force Majeure’, the social distancing, medical and economic crises that is creating massive confusion might benefit from the cautionary advice: Beware the Ides of March.
My Fascination with Viruses
Many years ago during my undergrad years in Life Sciences at the University of Toledo I recall my fascination with viruses. Why? These microscopic organisms are one of the most competitive forms of life on this planet. They have been discovered in ice melts in Antartica having lay dormant for possibly millions of years. No one really knows for sure.
Nucleic acid molecule in a protein coat is how scientists describe these invisible life forms. They are only seen under strong microscopy where these living things can be identified. And, they can infect other life forms, such as animals through infiltrating a cell and then mutating their structure.
The virus changes enough that the infected animal’s innate form of defense (immune system) is unable to manufacture an effective barrier to viral multiplication and attack. Viruses survive even after their host organism dies. Then, move on. Viruses can shift internal genetic information to create a different entity. This is why I use the word “competitive”.
In the world of living things within which we live here on earth as one of those living beings; most life has one form of genetic material that is not capable of modification during its lifetime. Not so with viruses. This is what makes them able to resist chemicals designed to kill them, and to hide in an inactive, inert state until the environment is right for their reemergence. Fungi have similar capabilities, but that is a subject for my pondering at another time.
Coronavirus is a Big Deal
I read an article written by an immunologist at Johns Hopkins University. It explains why this Coronavirus is so important and how it operates. It’s posted below.
Personally, I believe that viruses could seriously devastate humanity. If humans continue on a destructive path of causing great and potentially irreparable damage to the human immune system and the planet as a whole; there may be little to no possible repair.
As I look out my front window on this March morning, I marvel at this snowy and beautifully black and white portrait of nature before sunrise. I relish the long-ago ideas I fostered before getting my Juris Doctor degree and practicing law for more than 37 years now.
Coronavirus is a Big Deal
Posted by Rev. Dr. Carla Ryan on facebook :
Lesson # 437::: This is from an immunologist at Johns Hopkins University: Feeling confused as to why Coronavirus is a bigger deal than Seasonal flu? Here it is in a nutshell. I hope this helps. Feel free to share this to others who don’t understand… It has to do with RNA sequencing…. I.e. genetics. Seasonal flu is an “all human virus”. The DNA/RNA chains that make up the virus are recognized by the human immune system. This means that your body has some immunity to it before it comes around each year… you get immunity two ways…through exposure to a virus, or by getting a flu shot.
Novel viruses, come from animals…. the WHO tracks novel viruses in animals, (sometimes for years watching for mutations). Usually these viruses only transfer from animal to animal (pigs in the case of H1N1) (birds in the case of the Spanish flu). But once, one of these animal viruses mutates, and starts to transfer from animals to humans… then it’s a problem, Why? Because we have no natural or acquired immunity.. the RNA sequencing of the genes inside the virus isn’t human, and the human immune system doesn’t recognize it so, we can’t fight it off. Now…. sometimes, the mutation only allows transfer from animal to human, for years it’s only transmission is from an infected animal to a human before it finally mutates so that it can now transfer human to human… once that happens..we have a new contagion phase. And depending on the fashion of this new mutation, thats what decides how contagious, or how deadly it’s gonna be.. H1N1 was deadly….but it did not mutate in a way that was as deadly as the Spanish flu. It’s RNA was slower to mutate and it attacked its host differently, too. Fast forward. Now, here comes this Coronavirus… it existed in animals only, for nobody knows how long…but one day, at an animal market, in Wuhan China, in December 2019, it mutated and made the jump from animal to people. At first, only animals could give it to a person… But here is the scary part…. in just TWO WEEKS it mutated again and gained the ability to jump from human to human. Scientists call this quick ability, “slippery” This Coronavirus, not being in any form a “human” virus (whereas we would all have some natural or acquired immunity). Took off like a rocket. And this was because, Humans have no known immunity…doctors have no known medicines for it. And it just so happens that this particular mutated animal virus, changed itself in such a way the way that it causes great damage to human lungs.. That’s why Coronavirus is different from seasonal flu, or H1N1 or any other type of influenza…. this one is slippery AF. And it’s a lung eater…And, it’s already mutated AGAIN, so that we now have two strains to deal with, strain s, and strain L….which makes it twice as hard to develop a vaccine. We really have no tools in our shed, with this. History has shown that fast and immediate closings of public places has helped in the past pandemics. Philadelphia and Baltimore were reluctant to close events in 1918 and they were the hardest hit in the US during the Spanish Flu.
Factoid: Henry VIII stayed in his room and allowed no one near him, till the Black Plague passed…(honestly…I understand him so much better now). Just like us, he had no tools in his shed, except social isolation… And let me end by saying….right now it’s hitting older folks harder… but this genome is so slippery…if it mutates again (and it will). Who is to say, what it will do next. Be smart folks… acting like you’re unafraid is so not sexy right now. #flattenthecurve. Stay home folks… and share this to those that just are not catching on.