I have been seeing some heated discussion over the past few days in regards to one of our old friends, hCov-EMC. I originally wrote this out as a very long comment on one of my favorite blogs, The Organic Prepper, in response to an article about the role of science in dealing with the disease.
The Case Against Science
In the pursuit of a cure for hCov-EMC, H1N1 and the other dangerous flu variants which have come up over the years, Pandora’s Box has been opened. In researching the disease, information on how these diseases infect, how they spread, and how they kill are more known than ever. Assuming this is kept in the right hands, it should eventually lead to a cure. Or will it?
H1N1 became a matter of international safety back in 2009. After close to a year the death count was listed north of 16,000 worldwide in 213 territories. It was reduced from pandemic to post pandemic status in September of 2010 with a final measured death count of 18000. With the heat on and the clock ticking, the best science was able to come up with was the use of tamiflu to lesson symptoms and a vaccine that was as questionable as any other year. Thousands continued to die.
The price we have paid for these advances is opening pandora’s box. Engineering viruses is commonplace these days, genetically engineering bacteria is done in high schools across America. People with the wrong intentions have the means to produce superbugs, if they have access to the knowledge. In addition to the possibility of research being published, there is the threat of lab data and samples being stolen from the places where research is being conducted.
Throwing the baby out with the bathwater?
A moratorium was placed on research on H5N1 for 60 days that was extended to well over a year. The potential cost of unleashing weaponized forms using stolen information about superbugs seems to be too great for the paltry results we seem to be getting.
These viruses are mutating from generation to generation, not unlike HIV, which creates a moving target that is tough to cure. Despite not having an answer, we are more knowledgeable than ever on this subject and to stop short would be to sacrifice years of work. If we ever hope to fight these diseases the research must continue. We need to think long term.
Are we focusing on the right conversation?
What does bird flu from chickens, swine flu from pigs, and the transmission of these both to humans have in common? None of them would be possible without factory farming. Instead of pointing fingers at the institution of science and having conversations about whether the knowledge to find a cure can be found, we need to look at why these things in the first place.
There was a farm where swine flu started. There might have been another farm where it jumped to humans for the first time. Those people and animals were shipped around the world to support the sick system of mass agriculture, and tens of thousands are dead for it. If we didn’t support these systems as a society every day by voting with our wallets we wouldn’t have these situations. We might not prevent disease from coming around overnight but every day you make the decision to support systems like this or not.