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Virus not Nuclear Weapons Will Destroy Life on Earth

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When life on our planet ends, it will be because of a virus, not the use of nuclear weapons that will ultimately destroy life on earth.

Fear moves humans into action, and sometimes that action is fool hardy and is an overreaction, but it is the ultimate motivator.  Today Americans fear asteroids, terrorist attacks, and the possible use of nuclear weapons by North Korea, India, Pakistan, or Iran.

Two things I do not believe in are worry and fear.  If I could do something about either category, I would.  If I can’t, then I just go on about my life, living it fully to the best of my ability.

I do have concerns.  I have never had 100 percent faith in medical science, and therefore their ability to control the spread of disease.  A cure for HIV, and ultimately Aids has not been discovered.  Medical science has not conquered the common cold, and probably never will.

If anyone has ever read Stephen King’s “The Stand,” or viewed the three part made-for-television movie, they’ll understand what I’m referring to.  All too many countries have experimented with ‘man-made’ viruses.  There are many that occur naturally, and they are very worrisome.

The latest is the poorly named, Middle East respiratory symptom coronavirus, or MERS-CoV.  It received its name because of its discovery in Saudi Arabia.  It has symptoms similar to the common cold, and attacks the respiratory system.  But the CDC warns that the severe cough and fever resulting from infection can readily lead to pneumonia and kidney failure.

And the mortality rate is very high.  Of the 49 known affected by the virus, 27 have died.  And it is spreading.  Three cases have been reported in Italy.  First, a 45 year old man contracted the disease.  He had traveled to Jordan.  Yesterday two women were diagnosed with the virus.

The head of the World Health Organization, Doctor Margaret Chan, sees the danger of an uncontrollable virus being a greater threat than that of nuclear destruction.

“Looking at the overall global situation, my greatest concern right now is the novel coronavirus,” Margaret Chan said, calling it “a threat to the entire world.”

“We understand too little about this virus when viewed against the magnitude of its potential threat,” the director general said in her closing speech to the 66th session of the World Health Assembly. “Any new disease that is emerging faster than our understanding is never under control.

“These are alarm bells and we must respond. The novel coronavirus is not a problem that any single affected country can keep to itself or manage all by itself.”  She named it the ‘MERS-CoV’ virus, or ‘MERS’ for short.

Hong Kong-born Chan can be understood for her strong reaction. After all, she managed the response to SARS there in 2003, and MERS is a close genetic cousin. At least 8,000 people in 30 countries contracted SARS in 2003; 774 died of the disease.

Her biggest concern with MERS is that 52 percent of those who have contracted the virus have died.

Similarities between SARS, and MERS, are frightening.  Both attack the immune system so thoroughly that organs throughout the body are devastated.  They are both spread by close contact with others, and place social and health care workers at the greatest risk.

The greatest fear is that MERS will act as did SARS and spread quickly and escape any efforts at containment.  SARS was eventually discovered in 30 countries.

Dr. Chan and the WHO are encouraging all nations to ‘get ahead’ of this virus, and be especially cautious if travel to the Mid-East is necessary.

The belief that a virus has a greater chance of destroying life on earth, than do nuclear weapons, is not solely science fiction.  Many biologists and biochemists have come to the same conclusion.

James Turnage

The Guardian Express


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