Saturday, May 09, 2009

Saturday News Blogging: Swine Flu Edition

I'm wiped. Work started at 1:30am today and went very badly, as badly as possible without anyone getting hurt.

So I REALLY want to sleep, but if I go home I will be overrun by little peepers. So that's a no-go. I'd love to blog, but that's at the back of the line behind washing, eating and sleeping. Oh, and making love to my wife. And playing with the kids.

It's not that I don't love y'all, tho.

One thing I did want to note is that it seems that the latest round of swine flu is dropping off the exponential curve that the truly Great Pandemics seem to follow. So, so far, 2009 does not equal 1918.

But...but. Let me remind you that as far as we know the 1918 pandemic followed a strange pattern. The spring flu season was extremely mild, although it was somewhat out of character due to its origin in the central U.S. and its timing in late spring rather than autumn and winter.

But that autumn the pale green horse returned and slew without mercy. The cytokine storms that typified this manifestation of the flu were the great killer of young and mature adults that made the 1918 outbreak so terrifying.

There is some uncertainty surrounding the pattern of the 1918 flu, but most sources seem to believe that the milder flu that passed that spring underwent some sort of genetic drift, a mutation or mutations, that made it so lethal in the fall and winter.

Our present flu has not yet had the chance to make this shift.

We may yet live to see whether it will or not.

(Oh, and h/t to Group News Blog, for the delightfully vile A. A. Milne parody)

12 comments:

Lisa said...

Last year it was reported that workers who had been using compressed air to blow pork brains out of the skull cavity were coming down with a neurological disease similar to M.S. (http://tinyurl.com/5dye7o_.)

No solutions on that one, and many many of the workers remain paralyzed. We simply do know the dangers of overpopulation (and certainly factory farms consist of an artificially overpopulated system.)

Care to join me in the Decameron :(

Pluto said...

Good luck with work, Chief. May you get your well-deserved break soon! And Happy Mother's Day to Mojo!

FDChief said...

Lisa: I cannot but agree that we are taking our world - and especially the way we grow and raise the things we eat - to places and in ways we do not understand at a rate we are functionally unable to control even if we understood where we were going.

And as for the latter, Madonna...e però contentate il piacer vostro d'abracciarmi e di basciarmi, ché io abraccerò e bascerò voi vie piú che volentieri". (Madam...you may even embrace and kiss me to your heart's content, and I will embrace and kiss you with the best of good wills." (Boccaccio, Decameron, II,2, 38)

Pluto: Thank you, and we will.

sheerahkahn said...

Lisa,
Wow, the symptoms being described sounds a lot like meningitis, which I find interesting as a bench monkey, but as a human being...ai-yi-yi

But herein is the thing, we are busily doing changing things in this world, biologically speaking...well, chemically speaking as well, that is just plain freaking nuts.
And the sad thing is that our bodies, wonderful machines that they are, are also little factories that with the right virus can be hijacked and rerouted for nefarious means.

We really need to be fare more...thoughtful? I'm not sure what the proper word to use right now would be, but we, as a species really need to pull our collective shit together before soil our bed.

Lisa said...

Chief,

I do know you come with the best of good wills, you eloquent man. We will feast on all things non-porcine :)

Sheerah,

Yeah, definitely we need to be looking at the way we eat, and the acceptable levels of toxicity we have devised.

Here in FLA we are witnessing all manner of harmful reproductive mutations in many of our aquatic species, almost surely a result of pesticide contamination of their environment. We are ingesting those same chemicals. . .

FDChief said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
FDChief said...

Lisa, sheerah: My take on this is that it is part of a much larger problem, namely, that we are now technically capable of making vast, overwhelming changes in our surroundings, in every aspect from physical to social to genetic to environmental.

But our emotional and mental processes have not changed al that much since we descended from the trees.

So we find ourselves sprinting andpuffing to catch up with the alterations we are making to everything around us; our fields and farms, our bodies, the animals and plants that evolved over thousands and millions of years..but these alterations are occurring in the space of days, weeks, months or years.

We have. in a sense, accomplished geological epochs of change in the space of a few scant human lifetimes. And I'm not sure we understand what will come of these changes, or even (in the greater sense of seeing and understanding the great web of life we're impacting) what we're doing.

Where we do have the data, we know that this is usually NOT a good thing.

Lisa: I was introduced to the Decameron in college by an assistant professor of similarly low tastes in Great Books and have carried my paperback copy with me through Panamanian jungles and Canadian prairies. The old Italian's stories of wit, roguery, adventure, and bawdry have entertained me for thirty years. What never fails me is the lusty Rennaissance flavor of the stories; the author knows every foible and failing, every bit of cupidity, lust, cowardice and duplicity that live within his characters, yet still loves them as much for those very human failings as for their roaring love of life that practically leap off the page.

But the Decameron is a bit of a novelty these days. So now I'm curious - where do you come by Boccaccio's great collection of tales? Dove avete trovato questo, madonna?

Lisa said...

'Tis the same as you, il signore -- in some literature course along the way.

As with The Canterbury Tales, we delight in humans being revealed for their very humanity, the high and the low. We can imagine being in that very scenario, and with a sly smile, recognize ourselves in them.

I love that you have carried this book over so many terrains, and that it delights you, too. Though the characters delighted in their play, their situation also makes me think of Omar Khayyam, and the stripping down to the barest essence.

To me, that is very appealing: to be thrust out of our customary patterns and confront ourselves. What games do we play? What matters, at core?

Lisa said...

And another thing: to this, I am also concerned --

"We have. in a sense, accomplished geological epochs of change in the space of a few scant human lifetimes"

MLK's guided missiles and misguided men. The technophiles are discussing the day soon when there will be an alpha set which will be programmed to ingest the multifarious electronic inputs we will be receiving. There is simply too much data/chatter for the average brain to assimilate today.

How does a person Blackberry, Facebook, Twitter, read, talk, work, live all in the same 24-hour space?

sheerahkahn said...

"MLK's guided missiles and misguided men. The technophiles are discussing the day soon when there will be an alpha set which will be programmed to ingest the multifarious electronic inputs we will be receiving. There is simply too much data/chatter for the average brain to assimilate today.

How does a person Blackberry, Facebook, Twitter, read, talk, work, live all in the same 24-hour space?"

The best description that I have ever read describe what is happening was a Dilbert cartoon.
Dogbert tells Dilbert that the information and technological changes are happening so quickly that our ability to absorb all of it is like a "water from a firehose hitting a tea cup."
Even in the sciences it is impossible to keep up with all the information.
Dr. Dean Edell once said that if he read one paper a night, 365 nights a year just in his field of expertise, optometry, he would still be behind in his reading by at least two years.
And what concerns me more is that our ability to traverse vast territories of engineering seems to have outpaced our wisdom of whether or not we should take the next step...I'm afraid we are little toddlers with a machine gun...and there is no end to the damage we can do.

Lisa said...

Sheerah,

Dogbert, per usual, is spot-on.

As you say, toddlers with machine guns. That is an apt description of how many go through their lives, and oh the havoc they wreak.

The Wanderers' Daughter said...

I have to agree with Lisa on the unknown ramifications of overpopulation in various spheres (I could go on a tangent with that, but I won't rant).
As for the potential mutation, I have decided, much like Scarlett O'Hara (though I am the polar opposite of a Southern lass), to think about it "tomorrow". Really, I have enough to worry my poor little brain over between now and next flu season. When the time comes, I have no doubt that I'll worry again.