Robert Cormack

2 weeks ago · 5 min. reading time · visibility ~100 ·

chat Contact the author

thumb_up Relevant message Comment

Heads Up, America.

Some crazy historical facts about pandemics you should read before visiting your babies this Thanksgiving.

 

 

This is one time when I need to be hermetically sealed.” Howie Mandel

Historically, we’ve done some pretty crazy things during plagues and pandemics. Back in the Middle Ages, just saying “plague” caused entire cities to rush home and lock their doors.

Say “pandemic” today and everyone runs to Walmart for toilet paper and canned sardines.

Plagues were (still are) caused by bacteria (pestis bacteria, thus prestilence), usually found in small mammals and their fleas. We blame rats, but it turns out the early bubonic plagues were caused by — get this — giant gerbils. Somehow these giant gerbils traveled east on The Silk Roads, and very likely transferred their fleas to rats.

Rats were everywhere, in every trading port, every city. The higher the population density, the more rats. Venice, for instance, lost more than a third of its population in less than a year due to the Black Death. And think about this: The Black Death lasted for centuries, killing an estimated 25 million people across the European and Asian continent.

Instead (and this is where crazy comes in), they partied, drank, fornicated, and generally laughed in the face of the bubonic plague. They died, of course. Pestis bacteria had absolutely no sense of humour.

Yet, virulent as this plague was, not everybody saw fit to hide in their houses. Instead (and this is where crazy comes in), they partied, drank, fornicated, and generally laughed in the face of the bubonic plague. They died, of course. Pestis bacteria had (has) absolutely no sense of humour.

There were also people who, for reasons nobody understood, seemed to be immune to the plague. Some were gravediggers, taking dead people on their backs to long trenches dug in churchyards. They went about their work with hardly a sniffle, while the dead and dying lay around like remnants of a savage and venal war fought at the population’s bedsides.

When people saw these gravediggers, they figured maybe only the old and weak succumbed to the plague. So out they went again, drinking and fornicating, figuring they were healthier than half-starved gravediggers. Next thing you know, they’re dying — and not too happy with gravediggers.

Once the plague took hold, society figured it was God’s wrath. They’d obviously sinned too much. Who takes out millions of people for sinning a little? Some went to church, others figured, if they were going to die, anyway, why not enjoy some merriment?

Of course, with any plague, you had deniers, some of whom even dressed like the doctors of the time with hoods and long beaks. They sent people out into the streets, telling them it was all a big con, which only spread the disease even more.

Even at the end of the Victorian Era, sanitation and disease control were relatively primitive by today’s standards.

Now obviously people in medieval times could be excused, knowing little about plagues, giant gerbils or sanitation. Even at the end of the Victorian Era, sanitation and disease control were relatively primitive by today’s standards.

Then along came WWI and The Spanish Flu. Now, flus aren’t exactly plagues, being virus-laden as opposed to bacteria-laden. One is spread by animals, the other by droplets spread by the mouth.

This particular strain of flu was unique in that it wasn’t Spanish at all. During the war, countries like Germany, France, Austria and the United Kingdom suppressed death reports, hoping to make the enemy think they weren’t infected. Spain was neutral. They didn’t see the need to keep this information under wraps. They ended up bearing the brunt of the disease’s origins.

Not that this helped the solders or their families. After being kept in crowded barracks and ships, they returned home to parades and homecoming balls. This led to what we call “super spreaders,” what they then called “just having fun.” Imagine families celebrating their son “dodging a bullet over in France,” only to have him die a few days later.

By the time the Spanish Flu fizzled out, close to 100 million people had died worldwide (675,000 in the U.S. alone).

Medical science wasn’t prepared for viruses of this voracity, and people in general, weren’t prepared to self-isolate. They’d suffered enough from three long years of war. Rather than isolate, they decided to demonstrate, holding rallies and mask burnings, claiming their rights under the Constitution.

By the time the Spanish Flu fizzled out, close to 100 million people had died worldwide (675,000 in the U.S. alone).

And don’t think for a minute it was just the flu itself that killed people. Doctors — not knowing what else to do — prescribed high doses of aspirin, often in the 30 mg range (today we’re around 4 mg). Bleeding ulcers resulted, often combined with influenza symptoms. This made doctors wonder if they were dealing with another bubonic plague.

And let’s not forget the evangelist who blew into the microphone, telling his congregation this was all it took to get rid of the coronavirus.

Which brings us to today, the modern age, with great leaps in medicine, and greater leaps in stupidity. During the last American Thanksgiving, people travelled all over the country. One grandmother said, “I’ve got to see my babies.” Well, thousands of people went to see their babies, while the president (Donald Trump) held major rallies, claiming “he was done with COVID.”

Next thing you know, people were dying at a rate of one every 33 seconds. Yet, to quote one Republican senior (who’ll remain nameless), “President Trump has done more to fight this pandemic than any president in history.” That’s rich, even for a steadfast Republican.

And let’s not forget the evangelist who blew into the microphone, telling his congregation this was all it took to get rid of the coronavirus. Stupid is as stupid does, I guess, and this particular evangelist went even further.

He told his flock to keep sending in those “tithes” even if they were broke. “God wants those tithes,” he said and, no doubt, people complied and probably died from blowing so much.

According to a recent Pew poll, almost 20 percent of the American population say they won’t take the vaccine because it causes — you guessed it — coronavirus.

One thing’s for sure, we can never underestimate craziness. According to a recent Pew poll, almost 10 percent of the American population still say they won’t take the vaccine because it causes — you guessed it — coronavirus.

How did medical authorities respond? Well, it seems they didn’t believe Americans would understand terms like “non-active” or “non-virus.” It means there’s no virus in the vaccines themselves.

What these vaccines do, folks, is go after the spike proteins which are the nobby things sticking out from the virus itself. If the vaccines are successful, the virus can’t transmit. Eventually, you get immunity.

You don’t just stop when you get the vaccine any more than you jump on a plane saying, “I gotta see my babies.” 

I say “eventually” because it doesn’t happen overnight. Vaccines take time. If you’re already infected, you’re still going to have symptoms.

And stop saying, well, we cured smallpox, cholera, typhoid and diphtheria. They took time. You have to build immunity until eventually you reduce the transmission rate to nil.

That includes continuing to wear masks and practising social distancing. You don’t just stop when you get the vaccine any more than you jump on a plane saying, “I gotta see my babies.” You’ll see your babies soon enough. Until then, maybe you could stop being, well, so crazy.

As Frank Zappa once said, “There’s more stupidity than hydrogen in the universe, and it has a longer shelf life.”

Something to think about. That’s if you’re not one of those people saying, “Ain’t nobody stickin’ ‘rona in my arm.” Frank would’ve loved that one.

Robert Cormack is a satirist, novelist, and former advertising copywriter. His first novel “You Can Lead a Horse to Water (But You Can’t Make It Scuba Dive)” is available online and at most major bookstores. Check out Robert’s other articles and stories (absolutely free) at robertcormack.net

thumb_up Relevant message Comment
Comments

Robert Cormack

1 week ago #4

Pascal Derrien

1 week ago #3

What if they had canned sardines during the plague ?

Robert Cormack

1 week ago #2

Ken Boddie

1 week ago #1

You whetted my appetite for historical info on pandemics, Rob, as the ignorance of mankind, back whenever, never fails to astound in 20:20 hindsight, and rivals our current ignorance, despite our increased medical knowledge. It seems from credible sources (incl National Geographic and BBC) that some doctors treating bubonic plague in 17th Century Europe wore bird masks with goggles (the former filled with scented flowers to ’kill’ the disease), leather gloves and long black skin covering clothing. They also reportedly carried a long staff to ward off boisterous potential patients. I’m surprised that today’s Goth youths haven’t taken up this fashion statement. 

More articles from Robert Cormack

View blog
1 week ago · 7 min. reading time

The Visitor.

A short story by Robert Cormack. · “Acting isn’t i ...

3 weeks ago · 5 min. reading time

Why I Hate Fast Food Journalism.

And why I'm worried about Medium. · “Writing is an ...

1 month ago · 6 min. reading time

The Catchers.

Once you're crazy, you know you've made it. · “In ...