Thursday, January 18, 2007

Captain Trips

Back in 1918-1919 a particularly nasty version of the flu showed up, infected lots of people and proceeded to kill between 2 and 5 percent of the human population. Some estimates put the death toll at 50 million people. 50 million people. It took AIDS 25 years to kill 25 million people - this flu killed 25 million in 6 months. In Fiji, 14 percent of the population died in two weeks and in Alaska, entire villages were wiped out. Gone.

A few years ago, I read about a doctor (Jeffery Taubenberger) who had made a couple of trips to an Alaskan fishing village, which had been decimated by the flu in 1918, with the hopes of digging up the body of someone who had died from the infection. The ground in the area is permafrost and, essentially, the body would have remained frozen since it's burial, hopefully preserving samples of the super deadly flu of 1918. It was these samples that Dr. Taubenberger hoped to recover and study. It's safe to assume that the Doc had never seen "The Thing", "Alien" or "The Andromeda Strain" and probably wasn't a fan of "The X-Files." Long story - short, the Doc recovered viable samples and since that time, others have recovered samples, as well. For some reason, that quaint idiom regarding 'sleeping dogs' keeps popping into my head.

Today, I saw this article concerning the 1918 flu and how scientists aren't simply studying the virus, but now they're infecting monkeys with the 'superflu'. One article stated that the experiment was supposed to last for 21 days, but the monkeys became so sick that they were euthanized after only eight. Let's see, infected monkeys, 21 days later.....reminds me of something....I can't quite place it. I keep getting flashes of Dustin Hoffman in a hazmat suit while Larry Underwood sings 'Baby Can You Dig Your Man' in the background.

Hopefully everything will work out fine and the scientists will prevail, and, in the meantime, I'm going to try and not worry about it. I think there's a Charlton Heston movie coming on, later. Maybe that'll help.

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