Fear 3.0

Zika. Sigh.

I have failed to contain the beachhead these wee beasties have established within the minds of Americans (See Fear 1.0 and Fear 2.0 for my vain attempts). Unlike Ebola, Zika means to stay and torment us indefinitely. And it has succeed at the task because it means to strike at our fecundity. Hell hath no fury like those with compromised reproductive capabilities.

An article published in the New England Journal of Medicine asserts:

Zika virus infection (ZIKV) during pregnancy has been linked to birth defects, yet the magnitude of risk remains uncertain. Investigators studying the 2013–2014 Zika outbreak in French Polynesia estimated that the risk of microcephaly due to ZIKV infection in the first trimester of pregnancy was 0.95% (95% confidence interval, 0.34 to 1.91), on the basis of eight microcephaly cases identified retrospectively in a population of approximately 270,000 people with an estimated rate of ZIKV infection of 66%.

Continue reading “Fear 3.0”

Fear is Seldom Served À La Carte

Fear is seldom served à la carte. Ignorance and propaganda round out the typical three course meal.

Contagions emerge periodically littering news feeds across the planet. If I were inclined towards conspiracy theories, perhaps I would attribute it to the government distracting us from important issues like xenophobia, racism, war, and tainted water supplies. It would seem the theatricality and deception gifted us in the form of ghastly political debates and the Super Bowl aren’t enough. We find ourselves in a brief interlude of calm between Star Wars and the deluge of superhero movies. Ebola is but a whisper these days, so, naturally a new illness seems aproposjust to continue in the conspiracy theorist vain.

A warning to the reader: Prepare to sanitize, scrub, and clean all the surfaces, not just of one’s body, but also the bodies of others. The disease we now encounter has slaughtered zero humans on record. This may be difficult to bear for those with a pathological fear of germs. Nonetheless, what the reader may encounter in the following might incite bedlam or genocidal thoughts and tendencies towards the vector of this contagion. I caution the reader that such misbegotten thoughts ought to be shunned; bedlam and genocide are not desirable. Ever.

Beware the Zika virus! Millions of these wee beasties travel aboard mosquitoes and besiege those living in equatorial mosquito territories. Being a relative of yellow fever, dengue, and West Nile, I can understand why Zika virus could be alarming. And I may not have been completely honest about zero humans slaughtered. A few days ago, the Colombian Health Minister implicated Zika virus with three deaths. Couple this with reports of a possible association between Zika virus and fetal brain abnormalities in Brazil, and dinner is served.

However, utilizing our highly evolved cerebral capabilitiesas we all shouldseasoned with a dash of skepticism, and an insatiable hunger for knowledge, one would discover that this virus dishonors its mighty brethren.

According to the CDC:

  • About 1 in 5 people infected with Zika virus become ill (i.e. develop Zika)
  • The most common symptoms of Zika are fever, rash, joint pain, or conjunctivitis…
  • The illness is usually mild with symptoms lasting for several days to a week.
  • People usually don’t get sick enough to go to the hospital, and they very rarely die of Zika.
  • Zika virus usually remains in the blood of an infected person for about a week…

I’m not a public health professional, but this doesn’t elicit even a modicum of concern within me. On the other hand, lead in the water supply and the egregious actions by state employees does. Save for the fringe cases, no definitive evidence exists to make brazen (let alone conservative) claims related to morbidity or mortality in regard to the Zika virus. Even the CDC has hedged their bets on Zika virus. In regard to the association of Zika virus and fetal brain abnormalities:

“Additional studies are needed to further characterize this relationship… Until more is known, CDC recommends special precautions for pregnant women and women trying to become pregnant.”

Yes, even in spite of insistence by Brazilian and Colombian health officials of causality. Don’t worry my dear readers, ludicrous claims and actions aren’t exclusive to health officials. A few presidential candidates are disturbingly eager to quarantine people infected with Zika virus. It’s Ebola all over again. At least Ebola was a serious and substantiated threat.

It’s frustrating to see articles spewing the same misleading claims about health time and again. My posts are a small defense against this huge barrage of ignorance. Or at least it tries to be. With only fifty cases of Zika virus arriving in United States since 2007, I appeal to the good judgment of the readers. Is the government out to deceive us? If so, why? Are we too inured by their falsehoods to care? Or are the news and media outlets to blame for the dissemination of bullshit? Do we allow ourselves to live in fear at the behest of propagandist news and paltry evidence? Do we not owe it to ourselves to become educated and informed and share that knowledge with others? Or shall we dine?

My Dislike for Ailuropoda Melanoleuca

Today I’m speaking about a particular organism that is beloved by a great number of people. And my intention is to expound upon why I do not find this particular organism cute or lovable or worth revering, especially when one beholds the myriad other wonderful organisms found—and are being found—on this planet.

I know not everyone may be familiar with the name Ailuropoda melanoleuca. However, I am fairly certain the reader has undoubtedly guessed that I mean to refer to the giant panda. Some people might not like what I have to say about the panda. But remember dear reader, these are only my opinions. Feel free to disagree and protest. I welcome it.

Continue reading “My Dislike for Ailuropoda Melanoleuca”

Live Long and Prosper

Overnight the world has changed and become something entirely different, unrecognizable to those who look away even for a moment. I awoke this morning with a text message containing a picture of a dress. Attached was a simple question: is this dress white and gold or blue and black? Not a particularly earth-shattering question. Little did I know that the aforementioned question threatened to vitiate the moral, cultural, and intellectual fabrics of our society. 

It should come as no surprise that social media jumped on this seemingly innocuous question and spread it throughout the Internet. I’m sure the reader’s newsfeeds and walls are currently polluted with what now seems like an disproportionate response to such a banal issue (I submit that this post could also fall into such a category). From Taylor Swift to Kanye West, ABC News and Fox News, it would seem that everywhere one’s gaze rests, the dress appears. Neuroscientists were interviewed about vision and science writers engaged this topic seriously, gobbling up expert knowledge.

I’m here to say: fuck the dress!

And as the divisive argument of hues raged on, news of Leonard Nimoy’s death cast a blanket of silence on the Internet. I need not insult the reader and anthologize the achievements and works of the beloved man. But it is important to point out how insignificant the dress now seems. The time for reflection seems more apropos now more than ever as we recall the blessing for which he is perhaps known best. Longevity is the goal of most humans and the length to which humans go to attain it know no bounds. From diet pills, detoxifications, cleanses, and fad diets to excruciating gym sessions, marathons, and medical interventions, humans strive to look and feel youthful. Such measures often result in undesirable medical conditions, depleted bank accounts, and missed opportunities in some form or another (familial obligations, social responsibilities, and just plain old quality time with oneself). Therefore, I must remind the reader that the blessing was never “live long or prosper”, but rather to live long and prosper.

Fear: The One True Contagion

I hope the reader will forgive me as I comment on the contagions that now litter every news and media outlet. I speak, of course, on Ebola and, more importantly, the fear with which it so poignantly strikes in the hearts and minds of the masses.

By now, the reader has undoubtedly been subjected to a veritable deluge of articles and stories detailing the horrors of Ebola. Ebola isn’t a new virus. Since the discovery of the virus in the latter portion of the 1970’s, a total of five viruses (known under the umbrella term as ebolaviruses) have been discovered, four of which result in the disease in humans.

As you may have noticed, the attention began with the outbreaks of Ebola in West Africa. For those who know the whole story, I shall be brief. In December 2013, Guinea experienced an outbreak of Ebola which eventually spread to its neighbors, Liberia and Sierra Leone. Since that time, the disease has been difficult to contain due to traditional medicine, death and burial rituals, and understaffed and ill-equipped hospitals and treatment centers, to name a few.

Continue reading “Fear: The One True Contagion”