A Tale of Two Diseases

As we stumble into the end of the winter of our discontent, this April 2020, I am at the point of feeling rather dejected as I follow the media, listen to the experts and authorities. The people around me, my community and country, seem compelled by them, controlled by them, into participating in a slow-motion population suicide.

I am observing a global telephone game. Even people that I wouldn’t expect seem to want to play. I can still remember the first time I played the telephone game in fifth grade. The teacher put the entire class in a circle that pushed out to the perimeter of the classroom. One person whispered a simple phrase into the ear of the person next to her, and the message was off. It traveled around the group. The last person in the circle presented the message to the sender — it was a garbled mess. Each telling, each pass from person to person distorted the simple phrase. That is the current game being played by all of us in our classroom of life. We are gambling our existence and our humanity on multiple and conflicting messages that are passed along and continually distorted and garbled.

Let’s pause and examine two diseases that are ravaging humanity. It is important to understand that Corona and COVID are lumped together and discussed as one thing — that is a critical error.

SARS-CoV-2 is the designation of a novel virus, recently identified. But we already know about Corona viruses. We understand the epidemiology that defines how these viruses travel through populations, how they infect, how the infected person reacts to and clears the viral infection. This new variant can be understood. We already have the tools to deal with it.

COVID-19 is a syndrome that is being called the disease. It is a grouping of symptoms, along with clinical findings, along with certain markers of geographic association. It is a disease with a case definition that is adjusted as the pandemic situation changes. What clinches the final call to say that a person is infected is a laboratory test — an imperfect test but the best that is available. This is an excerpt from the licensing document of one of the tests being used:

Positive results do not rule out bacterial infection or co-infection with other viruses. The agent detected may not be the definite cause of disease

How about this thing called SARS-CoV-2? This thing is a virus. It is nothing special. Yes, people are getting sick and some are dying, but I set my flag in the ground on this prediction — when mortality statistics are reviewed for this time-frame, all-cause mortality will not have changed significantly. Remember SARS and COVID are being lumped together in the telephone game. The virus is not the disease.

We (the medical and scientific experts) don’t really even know what a virus is. People are presented with beautiful pictures of “the corona virus (CDC image)”. What an amazing picture — it gives you depth of field with the closest knobs on the ball in focus and the periphery blurred due to the high magnification. It’s a lie! Those pictures, presented to the public to help them visualize “Corona” are cartoons. They might as well be drawings of a mean predator with blood dripping from its fangs. Here is the best we can do (electron micrograph) in visualizing what a corona virus looks like. I point this out to suggest that, just like the cartoons used to give us a picture, the narratives being presented to help understand this virus and disease are approximations, stories told in an attempt to get closer to the truth that we really don’t know.

So, what is the disease that we ought to focus on? It isn’t COVID. It is pandemic FEAR. It too is a viral disease. We can work to understand this FEAR disease through the principles of Epidemiology: the study of the complex relationships among hosts and infectious agents. This is what I am concerned about.

Our experts and authorities talk the war that the global population is engaged in. They tell us, it’s a pandemic! Yes, it is. But it is not a war, it is a subterfuge. Regardless of motive, the results count. The results that I see are human beings avoiding one another. I see individuals so gripped by FEAR that they have stopped living a normal life.

I count on the people around me to create the community that I live in. Without them I can’t live a fully human life. My community has been shut down. Outside forces have attacked and prevailed. The virus didn’t do that — the experts and authorities did. Regardless of motivation or intent the results speak clearly. The experts exhort us to “shelter in place” until they come up with a solution. A solution to what? The Corona virus infection? That has never been done, and it won’t be. In the meantime, the authorities force us into isolation through color of law.

This novel virus will eventually fade into the background of our daily lives, just as every other virus has. Morbidity and mortality will continue, just as it always has. What might be lost, though, is the full extent of humanness that we seem to value less than we realize. Our lives cannot be mere virtual representations of the rich, complex interactions of people. The virus is not the cartoon that we are presented with, and neither are our lives the social distancing/online gaming/dating app/delivery service meals/virtual conference calls imitations of how humans live.

Kill the FEAR. Get out and live your life with other people. Use the tools we already have to avoid viral infection. You can choose to do that, but not by yourself. Unfortunately, the war we must all now fight is the one waged against our communities. The enemy is isolation. We cannot win that war if we allow ourselves to be engulfed by the enemy. I find it ironic that even our trained warfighters have ceded the battlefield. Military members, who signed up to fight and die for their homeland, are giving it away: Sailors slam Navy for virus response on ships, Naval Base San Diego. That is because this is not a war to be waged as a military campaign. Because, in the end, this is a war that is won with interaction and connection, not battles. We understand the virus well enough to deal with it. We need to better understand how dangerous isolation is. Fear and isolation will kill humanity with more certainty than any virus ever could.

A Preventive Medicine physician, committed to improving the health of his family and community.

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Troy Ross

A Preventive Medicine physician, committed to improving the health of his family and community.