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Disease (a Health Issue)


Although disease covers a whole range of conditions that impair the normal functioning of the body, in this section I will be concentrating on infectious diseases. That is, diseases that result from bacteria, viruses, and parasites. I want to talk about how they are spread, are prevented, and treated in our modern age, and how overpopulation, globalization and misinformation are causing more infections and deaths than there should be.

An infectious disease needs a host to replicate. Outside of a host most bacteria, viruses and parasites are not able to survive for very long. The greater the concentration of us in an area and the more that we travel, the easier it is for an infectious disease to spread. This means more of us will become infected and the more the infectious disease will replicate. In addition, the more it replicates the more likely it will mutate into a more infectious and potentially more harmful variant.

Throughout history, infectious diseases have caused illness, disability, and death. In the past, our battles against infectious diseases were mostly fought through evolutionary pressures. That is, as these infectious diseases evolved by mutating in ways that made them more infectious and better able to evade our immune defenses, we also evolved better immune systems to fight off these infections.

Today, our fight against infectious diseases has intensified. Our large globalized, overpopulated, and crowded world has made it easier for infectious diseases to spread and to mutate. Unfortunately, our immune systems have not been able to keep up. Luckily, we have developed antibiotics, vaccines, and treatments to help us fight back. However, infectious diseases are also mutating in ways that are making them resistant to our antibiotics.

In our modern globalized world, infectious diseases can spread around the world in just a matter of days and infect thousands. With billions of potential hosts, who are often crowded together, these infectious diseases are spreading and evolving quickly. The more an infectious disease spreads, the more it mutates, and the more likely it will be able to re-infect those of us who it has already infected. For instance, the cold virus is constantly spreading and mutating so much that many of us will get a cold 2 or 3 times a year.

The best way to reduce the risk of infectious diseases is to make it harder for them to spread and to mutate. That is best done by reducing our overpopulation and crowding, and by reducing our travel. It is also important to reduce our exposure by isolating those of us who are sick and by keeping our environment relatively clean.

However, our bodies expect and are primed to fight off infections. If our immune system does not have real infections to fight, it will try to find something else to fight, which could be our own body. Therefore, we need to ensure we do not completely cleanse our environment of infectious disease, so our immune system will be able to learn to fight off real infections, instead of resorting to attacking our own body. It is also important to note that vaccines can also help to train our immune system.

Bacteria and Antibiotics

There are both harmful and beneficial bacteria. About 0.3% of an average human's overall body weight is bacteria. Most of these bacteria are helpful. The bacteria in our bodies help to digest our food, destroy disease-causing cells, and provide our bodies with needed vitamins. Less than 1 percent of all the different types of bacteria will make us sick. For the most part, harmful bacteria are ones that secrete or excrete toxins, which then damage our bodies' tissue and make us sick.

When it comes to harmful bacteria, the discovery of antibiotics was a game changer. Antibiotics can be used to prevent infections and to help us fight the infections we do get. However, antibiotics can kill both harmful and beneficial bacteria. On the other hand, more and more bacteria are becoming resistant to antibiotics because of our overuse and misuse of them.

In today's modern world, we are now adding antibiotics to soap, feeding them to livestock, and using them to try to fight viruses, where they have no effect. With all this overuse, we are killing off most of the bacteria that are most susceptible to these antibiotics, and allowing the bacteria that are most resistant to them to multiply and to become more prevalent.

As more harmful bacteria become resistant to our antibiotics, it becomes harder to treat infections, and we are forced to keep trying to find even stronger antibiotics. In fact, there are already some super bugs that are resistant to the strongest last resort antibiotics that we have.

Therefore, we need to put in place strong regulations to limit the use of antibiotics to just when they are really needed, so that they will remain effective for as long as possible, while we look for even stronger ones. Since bacteria are generally spread by contact, in most cases, just washing our hands and other surfaces with regular soap and water will work just fine.

When we do need to take antibiotics, we need to ensure that we take them as directed. To save money, some of us will cut our dosage or stop taking them too early. The right dosage over the right time frame is needed to ensure that the harmful bacteria are killed, and that we do not give the harmful bacteria too much time to develop resistance.

When we take an antibiotic, it not only kills off the harmful bacteria, but also kills a lot of the beneficial bacteria. If too much of our beneficial bacteria is killed off, then that can wreak havoc with our bacterial balance, and can leave us feeling weak and tired for months until the beneficial bacteria can grow back. In some cases, our microbiome may never recover on its own. Luckily, research is showing great promise with bacterial replacement treatments.

Besides antibiotics, there are also a few vaccines that will prime our immune systems to fight off specific bacteria. However, most vaccines only work for viruses.

Viruses and Vaccines

A virus needs a host to replicate. To replicate, a virus needs to get inside a cell and to force the cell to produce new copies of itself. To spread, the virus must then get out of the cell. Between replication and breaking out of the cell, the virus kills the cell. If a virus kills too many cells, it can cause long term health issues, or even permanent damage or death.

Given the damage that a virus can do, it really makes sense to do all we can to avoid getting the virus. To do that, we want to stay away from those who are or could be infected with it. That means keeping our distance from these individuals (social distancing) and when appropriate, wearing appropriate protective gear, like masks. Those of us who are or could be sick should try to isolate ourselves and wear masks when we must be around others.

If we do get a virus, we want to get over it as soon as possible, so it does the least amount of damage to our bodies. The best way to do this is to be proactive and get vaccinated against the virus. Unless we are allergic to one of the ingredients in a vaccine, an approved vaccine is usually safe. At the very least, a vaccine is far safer than getting the virus without first being vaccinated. There are some side effects that result from getting some vaccines, however these side effects are far more prevalent and worse when we get the virus.

Since a vaccine simply activates our immune system to fight the virus and not to kill the virus directly, the virus cannot develop a resistance to the vaccine. However, a virus will mutate, so an updated vaccine would be needed when we allow the virus to spread too much. Therefore, it is very important for as many of us to get vaccinated as possible to reduce the spread of the virus and to reduce its ability to mutate.

vaccine and mask misinformation and mandates

For a long time, there have been some individuals who have advocated against vaccines. They have continued to claim all sorts of problems with vaccines, even after those claims have been proven to be false. Although many of us have been manipulated into believing these false claims about the danger from vaccines, many of the most outspoken anti-vaccine activists have ulterior motives. Some are promoting and making money from selling alternative treatments, others are in it for notoriety, or some other despicable reason. Recently, the spread of anti-vaccine and anti-mask misinformation has become very political.

Unless an unvaccinated person is a hermit, that person has a high probability of catching that virus, especially if that person is around a lot of other people who are not vaccinated. Being sick from a virus can carry a high risk of short-term and long-term problems and even death. Therefore, when a vaccine can help reduce the risks associated with catching a virus, it makes no sense not to get vaccinated. That is, unless you have an allergy to one of the components of the vaccine.

If we are unable to get vaccinated due to an allergy or some other health reason, then we either need to isolate ourselves or hope that most of the individuals around us have gotten vaccinated. If we do not get vaccinated when there is no sound medical reason not to, then we are putting both ourselves and everyone around us at risk.

During our recent pandemic, we were asked to wear masks to slow the spread of the virus. Although masks do provide some protection for the person wearing the mask, more protection is afforded to the individuals around the person wearing the mask. That is, the main reason for wearing a mask is to protect our friends, families, and neighbors in case we are infectious.

However, a lot of us do not want to wear a mask. Yes, masks are a bit uncomfortable, and do make it a little bit harder to breathe and to talk, and so on. However, masks were an important means to protect us from spreading the virus during the pandemic. I believe that those of us who are against wearing masks would sing a different tune if a lot of unmasked infected individuals started hanging around us. I think we would also feel differently if our surgical staff decided not to wear masks while they were operating on us.

There are also some individuals who do not want mask and vaccine mandates, and some legislatures and governors are even enacting laws to ban them. However, there are many cases where mandating having us be masked and/or vaccinated is vitally important, like with a surgical staff.

In most cases, those who are barring mandates simply say they are against mandates. However, there is a fundamental flaw with barring mandates, in that the act of barring a mandate is itself a mandate. The only difference is in what is being mandated. In the case of mandating masks and vaccinations, the government is doing so to protect us, which our governments have a responsibility to do. In the other case, the government is mandating that we cannot be protected, which means these governments are shirking their responsibility to protect us.

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Last Updated:
Saturday, January 20, 2024
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