Living with the plague


Remember when being afflicted with cancer was a virtual death sentence? And remember when HIV was considered by born-again Christians as God’s’ punishment for the sinfulness of mankind?

Well, the Big C is still considered a fast track to the cemetery, although, just as a death sentence can be commuted, the remission of cancer has become possible with medical developments. On the other hand, HIV has now become more acceptable in polite company, even as HIV-afflicted folks like basketball star, Magic Johnson, continue to live seemingly normal lives.

About a century ago, the flu claimed the lives of millions, across the world. Today, it is considered as just another respiratory illness for which one can get a free vaccination on a walk-in basis.

Yet, according to the Center for Disease Control, the flu resulted in 9 million to 41 million illnesses, 140,000 to 710,000 hospitalizations and 12,000 to 52,000 deaths annually between 2010 and 2020 in the US.

This number of fatalities most certainly cannot be taken lightly. That is about the same number of US deaths in the Vietnam war.

Yet we have learned to take the flu virus in stride -,at least not with as much horror as our attitude towards Coronavirus.

Indeed, in today’s scientifically advanced environment, there are still many ailments that are virtual life sentences – if not death sentences – due to lack of a cure. Parkinson’s disease (which has caught up with me) is one of them. But the world is not terrorized by them the way COVID-19 does.

Prostate cancer is another deadly illness, although it is is said to develop over such an extended period that the Grim Reaper could find another excuse to harvest you (unless you live to the ripe old age of 93, like my two elder brothers who both succumbed to the Big P).
I myself had to undergo treatment for prostate cancer, but I don’t lose sleep over it.
So now comes COVID-19 and its variants so far (only God knows how many more will develop in the future). Mercifully, effective vaccines have been developed and therapies are underway to blunt the severity of the virus and in more and more instances, these have resulted in a cure.

The current Omicron variant, while much more transmissible is reportedly less severe and more easily curable, if one has been vaccinated.

Hopefully, if there are other variants of COVID-19 down the road, the pharmaceutical companies will have a cure for them before they have a chance to spread.

In the meantime, our lives must go on, people have to earn a living, businesses must operate, children must get an education and schools must give it to them – under whatever conditions may be possible.

Out in the open field. Under a tree. Inside a nipa hut or a log cabin.

When I was in the grades in Tacloban in Leyte, I walked every day to school. As a third year high school student in Manila, I walked from Sampaloc to Roxas Homesite in Quezon City to be able to use my daily ten-centavo bus allowance (five centavos each way) for recess time snacks.

Yet that was infinitely easier than what my wife had to undergo as a grade school barrio kid in Albay. She and her friends would walk across ricefieds, ford rivers, hop and skip over muddy streams to make it to school. Every day.

On the other hand, in Maryland where our children went to school,, a school bus would fetch our children and bring them home. And in Manila, children can walk to school or take a tricycle, jeepney or bus – or if the families are well off, their cars can take them.

We understand that Abraham Lincoln read his books by candle light in a log cabin.

Back in the wild and wooley Neanderthal days, men would risk encountering dinosaurs snd other wild beasts, as well as club-wielding fellow cave dwellers, to hunt for their provisions. None of these life-threatening factors stopped them from living their lives.

In sum, a deadly virus should not be allowed to bring our lives to a standstill. We must go on with our lives, albeit with necessary inconveniences like masks, social distancing, and vaccinations. And we must learn to survive in the face of the threat to our lives.
Today I came upon an online article by Linda Gaudino with the headline: “When will COVID-19 Pandemic become Endemic?”

.According to the article, ”The changeover for an infectious disease from a pandemic to an endemic occurs when the virus is found regularly in a particular area or among people. The key difference in an endemic condition is that the virus is more manageable with greater population immunity.

“The common cold and flu are examples of endemic viral infections that are frequently encountered by the public. Medical Director for Infection Prevention at the Mount Sinai Health System, Dr. Bernard Camins, believes the Sars-Cov-2 virus will eventually become endemic over time.”

The article became more and more complex for a layman like me to understand, as assorted medical and scientific experts hypothesized and gave educated guesses on what could happen next.

At any rate, based on my takeaway from the scholarly discussion, plus my own pragmatic outlook, this is what I think:

The virus may not be dispearing soon – a harsh reality we must accept. Like cancer, HIV and other diseases or plagues, the virus may be kept under control up to a certain extent, but its variants will be there to threaten us. Thus, we must learn to live with and adjust to the inconveniences and perils posed by this Pandemic and others that the Good Lord might test us with. But we must not lose hope because God is infinitely merciful.

As the poet, Percy Bysshe Shelley put it in ”Ode To The West Wind”:”Oh wind, if when winter comes, can spring be far behind?”
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