We’re in a Bug War.

What I mean is – we openly acknowledge that we’re in a war with micro-organisms. All there is on this planet is one thing consuming another and then being in their own turn being consumed. To put it more bleakly, “everything becomes something else’s poop, just give it time.)

Who knows? We know about “zombie worms” that make grasshoppers drown themselves, grasshoppers and ants lock themselves to blades of grass so a cow will eat them. A fungus makes “zombie ants.” And cats help spread toxoplasmosis gondii which helps the cats by making their prey attracted to feline smells. (Apparently this also works on humans, hence so many cat-worshiping and cat-owning people throughout history.)

Toxo can also kill many species of monkeys and even infant or immuno-compromised humans.

We’ve also discovered that COVID leaves permanent damage in our bodies. Long COVID is denied by a few but it’s beginning to be accepted that people with LC actually have easily identifiable traces in damage to particular organs and systems. Besides the long-claimed brain fog, confusion, lethargy, and difficulty with everyday living tasks, there are organs that suffer quite specific and identifiable damage, parts of the nervous system and brain, and so forth. The way COVID was initially diagnosed by a specific pattern of damage observed on xrays. You can’t ask for a clearer sign.

Lastly, my own experiences have been unfortunate in that I acquired COPD on my late 30s after a particularly bad bout of virus. At the time I didn’t seek a diagnosis or treatment, but before that I was fine, able to move furniture and lead an active life, but after that bout, I tried to help a friend move a few cabinets up stairs to their new flat and collapsed gasping for air. The change (in retrospect, at the time I hadn’t connected these two events, why would you?) was pretty definite.

But then six months later I caught another virus going round, and it too was severe, and this time I was given the news by my doctor who had my pathology specimens checked that I had an active influenza virus but had also had Influenza A and mononucleosis in the recent past. Three years later I had the trifect and contracted Influenza B as well.

Also by then I’d been undergoing investigation for my shortness of breath, and soon after that got told I had COPD/emphysema. And I may be slow to make connections that seem blindingly obvious in retrospect but that got me thinking…

The Way Of Life

As referred to in the lede, we’re constantly fighting something. Back in very early times our enemies were smilodon and any other predator large enough to kill us, other hominids, and if we died we pretty much became predator poop, which in turn became microbe poop, which plants took up as their nutrients, etc.

Disease was there also, but most was of the “dying because of the wrong foods, not enough foods, fighting the wrong other animals for foods” etc kind and only a few were of the “microbes killing us from the inside” kind. Until the microbes caught on and found themselves a new niche host, one that travelled in easily-infectable groups, met other easily-infectable groups of the same type of host so that the microbes didn’t even have to evolve to infect.

Over the millennia, this has become a much more competitive arena – some very successful micro-organisms (and I don’t know if viruses are a “micro-organism” or a “toxic chemical” but I’m including them as the same group) have spread like wildfire through the human populations through the ages. Black Plague, Spanish Flu, and probably dozens more that were never recorded as widespread plagues – I’m looking right at you.

If you get almost any disease, it will leave behind some damage to some organs. Some damage is extreme, some minor – but almost all leave their tracks behind in us. Then I watched Joe Scott’s video and my realisation almost thirty years earlier that my bouts of flu were responsible for the decline in health I experienced, was reinforced.

The Why Of Life.

Nah. I can’t actually give you a “why of life.” Just some thoughts. For instance, the syndrome Joe refers to is “encephalitis lethargica” but was apparently more related to Parkinsonism – which isn’t exactly Parkinson’s Disease – and it was noted to have appeared a year before the flu epidemic is generally recognised as having started. But an early few incidents of the virus are bound to have been around before the pandemic proper started.

Disclaimer: I started this article a few weeks ago and got stuck because – I really only had COVID and my history of flu to go on. It was going to be a longterm project because I had so little to go on, then Joe’s video appeared and I got the necessary nudge I needed so I extracted the best bits of the other post to here, and I’ll keep developing this idea here.

Okay – so we’ve established that quite tiny and dumb things (like viruses) have the ability to make us do things without us realising that they’re in control, they leave damage behind in their wake, and they have measurable effects. I also know that those effects can be life-changing.

The nudge was Joe suggesting a connection between Spanish Flu and EL, just as there’s a connection between COVID and LC. Think about the connection between polio (before we eliminated it) and kids in leg calipers from the disease. That’s an extreme after-effect but not the worst.

We can (probably) attribute EL to the Spanish Flu though – it seems to me to be as probable as that COVID has Long Covid as an aftereffect. We can perhaps credit our general acceptance of cats on toxoplasmosis. But then again, we kept dogs before cats, and we mostly kept both of these animals for utilitarian purposes until quite recently. Nowadays, our need for protected homes, food animals, croplands, and stored foods has become a lesser concern but we’ve become attached to these companion animals.

But I reckon we may have had companion damage in the past, as well. This (without linkage or references) is a list of odd “fad” diseases that appeared, blossomed, and vanished without leaving any explanation:

Dancing Plague of 1518:
Location: Strasbourg, Holy Roman Empire (modern-day France)
Description: In July 1518, a woman named Frau Troffea began dancing in the streets of Strasbourg and continued for days without rest. Soon, dozens of others joined her, and within a month, around 400 people were affected. Some danced until they collapsed from exhaustion or died. The cause of the dancing plague remains uncertain, but theories include mass hysteria, ergot poisoning, or other psychological or environmental factors.

Tanganyika Laughter Epidemic:
Location: Tanganyika (modern-day Tanzania)
Description: In 1962, a laughter epidemic broke out in a girls’ school in Kashasha, Tanganyika. It started with three girls laughing uncontrollably and spread rapidly, affecting hundreds of people across multiple villages. The laughter episodes lasted from a few hours to several days and led to the closure of schools. The cause of the laughter epidemic is believed to be psychogenic, possibly triggered by stress or social factors.

Tanganyika Yawning Epidemic:
Location: Tanganyika
Description: In 1962, shortly after the Tanganyika laughter epidemic, a similar outbreak occurred, but this time involving uncontrollable yawning. The epidemic began in a girls’ school and quickly spread to nearby villages, affecting hundreds of people. As with the laughter epidemic, the cause of the yawning epidemic was believed to be psychogenic.

Sleeping Sickness in Kalachi:
Location: Kalachi, Kazakhstan
Description: Since 2010, the village of Kalachi has experienced several outbreaks of a mysterious illness characterized by residents suddenly falling asleep for days at a time. The episodes are accompanied by hallucinations and memory loss. The cause of the illness remains unknown, although some researchers suspect environmental factors such as toxic gases or carbon monoxide.

The Pied Piper of Hamelin (Legend):
Location: Hamelin, Germany
Description: The legend of the Pied Piper of Hamelin dates back to the Middle Ages and tells the story of a piper hired by the town to rid it of rats. When the townspeople refused to pay him, he used his magical pipe to lead away the children of the town, who were never seen again. While the legend is often interpreted as a cautionary tale, some theories suggest that it may have originated from a historical event such as the Children’s Crusade or a mass migration.

The Dancing Manias of the Middle Ages:
Location: Various regions in Europe
Description: Between the 14th and 17th centuries, various episodes of dancing mania occurred in Europe. These outbreaks involved large groups of people dancing uncontrollably in the streets for hours, days, or even weeks. The dancing was often accompanied by hallucinations, religious fervor, and sometimes death from exhaustion or heart attack. The exact cause of these outbreaks remains unknown, but theories include mass hysteria, religious ecstasy, or poisoning from ergot fungus in contaminated grain.

Koro Epidemics:
Location: Southeast Asia, particularly Malaysia, China, and Indonesia
Description: Koro is a culture-bound syndrome characterized by an intense fear of genital retraction and the belief that the genitals are shrinking or retracting into the body, often leading to panic and the fear of imminent death. Koro epidemics have occurred sporadically in Southeast Asia, with large numbers of people reporting symptoms simultaneously. The outbreaks are believed to be triggered by cultural or social factors rather than infectious agents.

The Mad Gasser of Mattoon:
Location: Mattoon, Illinois, United States
Description: In 1944, the town of Mattoon experienced a series of incidents involving reports of a “mad gasser” who allegedly sprayed toxic gas into people’s homes, causing symptoms such as nausea, vomiting, and paralysis. Despite extensive investigations, no evidence of a gasser was found, and the incidents were attributed to mass hysteria or individual cases of illness.

Add things like the encephalitis lethargica outbreak, Long Covid, and I suspect that if I had the time to go searching, several dozen more such incidents, and you have to wonder how many were pathologies caused by a different disease. I italicised the “causes” these outbreaks are attributed to, but I’m going with – no-one thought to ask all these people if they’d had a mild case of the sniffles in the week(s) beforehand, and in some cases, the infective agent may have had no symptoms at all. Look at how many people have tested positive for COVID but never noticed any symptoms.

One clue may be the localisation of these events. Not all infections are as universal as SARS-COV-2, and some may have been successful only in one or two villages where everyone later affected had this one genetic quirk. We tended to not go too far to find a mate, and it’s significant that, for example, the outbreaks in Tanzania only spread to nearby villages. The children of Hamelin were the only group affected by what could have been a subtle variation of the Laughing or Yawning outbreaks.

And of course, not ALL the outbreaks killed all those affected. Many appear to have survived and carried on, again, that makes me wonder if it wasn’t just down to the initial flu or whatever infection, and then the surviving people managed to deal with whatever aftereffects. Sadly, with very few exceptions, we had no-one around at the time to take names and notes, and follow those people after their strange afflictions had run their course.

But we do have this possibility, right here and right now, with Long Covid, and I think if we can get over the handful of people who refuse to accept that it happens, we should grab the opportunity and appoint a handful of people to investigate and record everything.

Stay awesome!

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