Tag Archives: health

Sick of the Virus

I am sick of all the coronavirus blog posts and memes. But there are a few that I’m particularly sick of, especially the defiant ones and the conspiracy theories. Here’s what I think, for what it’s worth.

No, COVID-19 was not engineered by the Chinese or anyone else. There are plenty of viruses running around out in the wild and jumping species without anyone having to create them in a lab. Just because this one might affect you doesn’t mean it’s special.

No, wearing a mask does not violate your civil liberties. Miners and construction workers have to wear hardhats. Painters have to wear masks or respirators. Surgeons have to wear gowns, gloves, and masks. There are laws about these things designed to protect the people involved. If they can suck it up and wear protective equipment without protesting, so can you.

No, your need for a haircut does not trump my need for staying off a respirator.

Yes, social distancing is inconvenient, but it still beats having your lungs filled with fluid.

Yes, the employees in businesses that are still open probably hate wearing masks too and sanitizing their hands multiple times a day. But they don’t want to take your viruses back home to the people they care about.

No, it’s not necessary to carry guns to rallies protesting COVID-19 restrictions. Shooting legislators and health authorities will not make a bit of difference to the virus. Show some dignity, people. 

Yes, states have the right to respond to the virus in any way they choose, but they ought to consider that the virus does not care about state lines or crossing them. An informed national policy would make the crisis less of a crisis, though.

No, people in the 70s did not like gas rationing, any more than people during World War II liked rationing of gas, sugar, flour, shoes, and many other commodities. But they put up with it for the sake of a greater goal. In this case, the greater goal that restrictions are required for is preserving the lives of innocent people.

No, you don’t need that much toilet paper. The virus attacks the respiratory system, not the GI tract. Leave some for others, for goodness sake. Let’s not be ridiculous here.

No, Bill Gates, Hillary Clinton, and George Soros had nothing to do with the origin or spread of the virus and are not using it as an excuse to microchip everyone. (Microchipping your pets is still a good idea.)

Yes, staying at home and sheltering in place can be boring. And trying to work from home or home-schooling your kids can be frustrating. But there are people who do these things by choice, every day of the year, and if they can put up with it, so can you. Boredom and inconvenience are not sufficient reasons to risk death for yourself or others.

No, politics has no effect on the virus. It hits red states and blue states equally, all things being equal. Some states are just more on the ball than others when it comes to limiting the spread of the virus. Look at Ohio – a red state with a governor who listens to a doctor and takes her advice about proper precautions. The virus wasn’t “timed” to interfere with elections either. There’s no way you can make a virus do that.

Yes, you are acting like an idiot if you harass (or shoot) employees who insist you wear a mask. They are carrying out their employers’ instructions or the health regulations of their state, county, city, or other authority. They’re not to blame for it.

No, no one is whipping up fear for fear’s sake. COVID-19 is already fearsome enough without it. This is not a plot to use fear to control us all. 

Yes, I have an axe to grind, “skin in the game,” as it were. I am a senior with an immune condition and an immunosuppressant medication. My husband has diabetes and a job in the high-risk environment of a grocery store. If either one of us gets the virus, we’re likely both toast.

There. I hope I’ve made it clear. These “news” stories, rumors, memes, and speculation have to stop. There are people’s lives at stake here, folks.

Let’s Talk Viruses

denisismagilov – stock.adobe.com

What’s up with viruses? What the hell are they, anyway? And how do those sly whatsits operate? Here’s a layperson’s guide.

Disclaimer first: I’m not a doctor, nor do I play one on TV. I’m not a microbiologist and I don’t think anyone plays one on TV. I’m simply a person who stayed awake in science class and has read a lot ever since.

First, let’s make this clear: Viruses have no brains. We can talk about a virus’s goals or intentions or strategies, but we’re at least partly anthropomorphizing or speaking metaphorically. A virus is a strand of DNA or RNA (in the case of COVID-19) wrapped in a shell which can glom onto bodily tissues so the virus can duplicate itself and move on to another host.

That’s what it does, and that’s about all it does. All a virus wants is to replicate itself and continue to do so. The fact that it makes you sick is quite incidental to that.

The incubation period – the length of time before you show symptoms of an illness – is important. It gives the virus time to multiply unnoticed within the body and infect others via bodily fluids before someone notices and tries to kill it off. The longer the incubation period, the more successful the virus is. Think HIV. It has an incubation period of years, which was what allowed it to be so successful at infecting a large number of people before anyone noticed.

The incubation period for coronavirus is, we think, about two weeks, give or take. You could have the virus without any symptoms during that time and all the while be spreading it by coughing, poor hygiene, or being too close to people. The masks that you wear may seem like they are protecting you, but actually they are preventing you from making other people sick.

Viruses are tricky bastards. They can – and do – evolve and mutate and jump species. That’s when a virus becomes particularly dangerous. If it mutates, as the flu virus does pretty much every year, no one has a natural immunity to it and unless a vaccine is created for that specific version, a lot of people get the flu.

Jumping species is another thing altogether. A virus can be living happily in a pig or a chicken or a bat or a monkey, not causing too much damage (at least not right away). But when a virus mutates so that it can infect and cause illness in another sort of animal (for our purposes, a human being), that’s when things get really tricky. The virus now has a population to infect that never encountered it before. It can burn through that population like wildfire. If the incubation period is short, the virus may burn itself out rapidly and not claim too many victims, as they die before having a chance to pass it on. But if the incubation period is longer, the virus gets a free ride to any number of new hosts.

And yes, people can get infected by eating the host animal. It’s not very likely, since most people eat their meat cooked, not raw. Bodily fluids and bites or scratches are much more dangerous, as is contamination with feces. But that’s not the only way that viruses are transmitted via animals. You know how viruses are passed from person to person without us having to eat each other’s flesh? Well, the virus can travel in the bodily fluids of other animals as well. So if you don’t wash your hands after feeding your chickens, or you stir up and breathe in some bat guano while you’re exploring a cave, or a mouse pees in your storeroom, any viruses lurking there can infect the unwary, if that virus is ready to jump species.

So, that’s a basic guide to viruses. And let’s be real about this. Viruses are all around us and spread quite naturally. There’s no real need to worry about a virus being manufactured and escaping from a lab. And need I say that Hillary Clinton, the deep state, Chinese supervillains, and George Soros have nothing to do with it? Yes, I suppose I do.

Finding Balance – Literally

We always hear about finding balance – between work and home, family and career, mind and body, heart and head.

My struggle for balance is more literal. My struggle for balance is about not finding myself on the floor with new bruises on my tush.

A number of factors influence my struggle for balance. Various parts of my body are in quiet or open rebellion.

I often joke that I have rocks in my head, but really they are in my ears. Otoliths (literally, “ear rocks”) are tiny calcium crystals that live in the inner ear and bump up against the little hair cells that send information to the brain about gravity and balance – which way the head and body are moving.

Unfortunately, if the little bits of calcium start rattling around loose in the “vestibular organs” (balance centers) of the ear, the brain senses movement when there isn’t any. The result: dizziness, vertigo, loss of balance. Technically, this is called Benign Paroxysmal Positional Vertigo (BPPV).

Practically, what it means is that moving my head in certain directions – such as tilting my head backward, especially with my eyes closed – makes me wobbly and prone to falling. This makes showering and shampooing tricky, even without the slippery surfaces, water, and suds.

(An extreme version of this, particularly when there is a sinus or ear infection, is called “labyrinthitis,” which I have also experienced. It’s unpleasantly like being drunk. The room spins. Then you crawl to the toilet and throw up. Repeatedly. The usual treatment is antihistamines such as Antivert or Benadryl.)

Then there are my back and my toes. The two are not as far apart as you might think. What connects them are nerves. And my nerves are frayed.

That’s not just figurative. I have bulging disks between the vertebrae in my back. A number of years ago, some of the bone in my lower back deteriorated and the combination caused a pinched nerve. I had pain in my back, of course, but also in various areas of my legs that were served by that particular nerve. An operation relieved the pain, but there was some residual damage to the nerve.

Now I have no feeling in the three smallest toes on my left foot. You’d be surprised at how much those baby toes have to do with balance. I was. The nerves have healed all they’re going to, so this is it.

How do I achieve balance?

Sometimes I walk with a cane. I try to avoid uneven ground, which pretty much means anything that isn’t paved or as flat as a golf green. I stand with my feet farther apart than most people. I don’t stand on my toes, largely because I can’t, or stand on one foot or with my eyes closed. I would absolutely fail any drunk-driving test that involves those skills.

Indoors, I do something that I’ve learned is called “wall-walking” (which is different than climbing the walls, something I do quite well figuratively). In my own home, where I don’t usually use my cane, I try to keep a light, finger-tip touch on the wall, a door, a bookshelf, or anything else handy. I don’t lean my weight on it. It simply gives me a solid, unmoving point of reference. It’s sort of like when tightrope walkers use a long pole to help keep their balance, or when a gentleman extends a hand to help a lady step down from her carriage. (Depending on whether you’re at the circus or in a romance novel.)

So. I know what you’re thinking. You think I am a decrepit old lady and should just get over it.

But what if I told you I am only 25?

In truth, I am not 25. I am at the age when one begins to worry about aging.

But I was 25 when I started getting labyrinthitis. And even younger the first time I damaged my lower back.

The point is, mobility and balance issues are not limited to the elderly. Back operations and pinched nerves can happen at any age – for example, after a car accident. Some neurological conditions strike young adults.

Finding balance can be hard at any age.