If you’ve read my Falling Leaves post on Earth Day, you know I have a somewhat grim view of what’s coming. Based on nothing more complex than the fact that we have no way to control human population growth, and will probably never have a conscious, deliberate way, we are screwing ourselves out of a future. Control will come from outside, via natural forces, and it will be ugly.
On that light-hearted subject, here’s an interesting article from the New York Times: The Ecology of Disease.
The point of the article is contained in a subhead: “Destroying nature unleashes infectious diseases.” Meaning, if you interfere with natural balances, diseases which were once held in check by environmental factors are now able to get free and infect humans, or human pets or livestock.
But once the [Nipah] virus breaks out of the [flying fox] bats and into species that haven’t evolved with it, a horror show can occur, as one did in 1999 in rural Malaysia. It is likely that a bat dropped a piece of chewed fruit into a piggery in a forest. The pigs became infected with the virus, and amplified it, and it jumped to humans. It was startling in its lethality. Out of 276 people infected in Malaysia, 106 died, and many others suffered permanent and crippling neurological disorders. There is no cure or vaccine. Since then there have been 12 smaller outbreaks in South Asia.
That’s a 38 percent death rate, but outbreaks have been recorded with up to 92 percent death rate. The disease can kill as many as 9 out of 10 people who catch it. So far it appears to be spread from pigs to humans, but the Wikipedia article suggests it could make the jump and become a human-to-human respiratory infection.
Nipah virus is classified internationally at the highest biosecurity level – BSL4.
Set that loose in the wider world and bang, a very different way of life for the 700 million of us remaining.
And you thought I was just this old compassion-and-togetherness cream puff.