As those of us who prudently practice social distancing and other sensible precautions from very real and ominous threats posed by the COVID-19 coronavirus, let's also be mindful of limitless gratitude we owe to those valiant and caring souls who voluntarily place themselves on front lines of our defenses.
The new enemy — an invisible agent of mystery and dread — is a micro-zombie existing at the edge of lifelessness, yet possessing remarkable fertility, awaiting an opportunity to invade and explosively reproduce in a living host cell.
Once delivered via an airborne droplet or surface contact, it attaches itself to the outer wall of the host cell, enters inside, merges with the genes, and then tricks it into making millions of copies of itself.
Each invaded host cell becomes a factory producing a huge zombie army to attack and multiply in tissues throughout the host's body. Some escape via droplets expelled by lungs, produced by sweat glands, or transported by fluids originating in other organs.
The prodigiously prolific and contagious behavior of viral assaults, COVID-19 in particular, makes them formidable adversaries. Adding to coronavirus's insidious nature, an unaware host can broadcast his or her infection to numerous others prior to — or even without — experiencing any tell-tale symptoms.
Health care workers who routinely come in contact with a wide variety of undiagnosed ailments encounter worst-case exposure risks. Some administer swab tests and other procedures that put them directly in harm's way of respiratory and body fluids of both suspected and known viral carriers.
I queried my fellow high-age-risk category doctor during a recent annual checkup whether he was alarmed regarding his own safety. He stoically responded that such a circumstance automatically went with his chosen profession.
Of course it's not just the more elderly health care providers that take on special encumbrances. Consider, for example, how day care and elementary school closings will stress family lives of increasingly overburdened hospital staff who are parents of young children.
Also unfortunately, many of us — perhaps most — will be broadly impacted as well. Professional, recreational, and entertainment events of all sorts will be cancelled; merchant business and service industry patronage revenues will suffer; visitations to loved ones in nursing homes will be curtailed; and most tragically, many mortal casualties are inevitable.
As we brace and prepare for a predicted lengthy and disruptively impactful global pandemic, let's remember that responsiveness fundamentally entails taking responsibility for exercising personal precautions to protect both ourselves and others, health workers very much included.
Basic behavioral rules prioritize inconvenient, yet vital endeavors to stay out of crowds; to diligently practice hand, face, and surface contact hygiene routines; and to self-quarantine if we develop what most likely may turn out to be seasonal cold or flu symptoms.
Meanwhile, we can be grateful for internet-enabled online social media and video networking opportunities to retain a reasonable semblance of normal life and business connectedness.
Past generations have endured, battled and survived far worse viral pestulance purges without benefit of modern scientific knowledge and technological advances.
A 1731 epidemic smallpox outbreak killed more than 500 of New York City's then-10,000 residents. Fortunately, English physician, Edward Jenner, invented a breakthrough smallpox vaccine in 1795.
By that time, New York harbor had also become a magnet for numerous other world microbes and maladies, including scarlet fever, measles, typhus, diphtheria and, the deadliest of all – cholera.
Another British physician, John Snow, is credited with introducing the modern field of epidemiology when he mapped an epidemic spread of Soho, London cholera cases in 1854.
Progress advanced. A century later, April 12, 1955 newspaper headlines announced "JONAS SALK'S VACCINE WORKS: POLIO IS CONQUERED." Other vaccines followed for measles, mumps and rubella, coupled with the introduction of miracle antibiotics such as penicillin and streptomycin.
Thanks to dedicated researchers and doctors, superbugs such as AIDS, SARS, MERS, Zika, Ebola and swine flu have been substantially contained, if not eradicated. Nevertheless, despite escalating and hopeful progress, we must realize that we live in a constant state of war against enormously diverse and ever-changing viral enemies.
After 50 years of trying, there is still no general preventive nor cure for the common cold. Meanwhile, development of effective flu interventions requires at least one new vaccine each year.
Again, we are deeply indebted to those preemptive, early responding and critical care warriors who dedicate their lives and health to protect ours. It's imperative that we likewise do all we can to help them help us to be safe.
Larry Bell is an endowed professor of space architecture at the University of Houston where he founded the Sasakawa International Center for Space Architecture (SICSA) and the graduate program in space architecture. He is the author of several books, including "Cyberwarfare: Targeting America, Our Infrastructure, and Our Future" (2020), "The Weaponization of AI and the Internet: How Global Networks of Infotech Overlords are Expanding Their Control Over Our Lives" (2019), "Reinventing Ourselves: How Technology is Rapidly and Radically Transforming Humanity" (2019), "Thinking Whole: Rejecting Half-Witted Left & Right Brain Limitations" (2018), "Reflections on Oceans and Puddles: One Hundred Reasons to be Enthusiastic, Grateful and Hopeful" (2017), "Cosmic Musings: Contemplating Life Beyond Self" (2016), "Scared Witless: Prophets and Profits of Climate Doom" (2015) and "Climate of Corruption: Politics and Power Behind the Global Warming Hoax" (2011). He is currently working on a new book with Buzz Aldrin, "Beyond Footprints and Flagpoles." To read more of his reports — Click Here Now.
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