Viruses are one of the Elder Earth Life Forms. They use us as their Trojan Horses to invade new territory. I was one of the very earliest US victims of the infamous Hong Kong flu. I got it from a Vietnam Vet who returned from Nam, came home, partied and collapsed. I was with the Free Clinic on night shift and I gave him mouth-to-mouth resuscitation until the oxygen arrived. Three days later, I was walking down the street when I felt very peculiar. It was as if I was sinking into the sidewalk. But no, I was literally collapsing.
The Hong Kong Flu was a category 2 flu pandemic caused by a strain of H3N2 descended from H2N2 by antigenic shift, in which genes from multiple subtypes reassorted to form a new virus. The Hong Kong Flu pandemic of 1968 and 1969 infected an estimated 500,000 people with a low death rate.In the United States, approximately 33,800 people died..
Both the H2N2 and H3N2 pandemic flu strains contained genes from avian influenza viruses. The new subtypes arose in pigs coinfected with avian and human viruses and were soon transferred to humans. Swine were considered the original “intermediate host” for influenza, because they supported reassortment of divergent subtypes. However, other hosts appear capable of similar coinfection (e.g., many poultry species), and direct transmission of avian viruses to humans is possible. H1N1 may have been transmitted directly from birds to humans (Belshe 2005).
The Hong Kong flu strain shared internal genes and the neuraminidase with the 1957 Asian Flu (H2N2). Accumulated antibodies to the neuraminidase or internal proteins may have resulted in much fewer casualties than most pandemics. However, cross-immunity within and between subtypes of influenza is poorly understood.
The Hong Kong flu was the first known outbreak of the H3N2 strain, though there is serologic evidence of H3N? infections in the late 19th century. The first record of the outbreak in Hong Kong appeared on 13 July 1968 in an area with a density of about 500 people per acre in an urban setting. The outbreak reached maximum intensity in 2 weeks, lasting 6 weeks in total. The virus was isolated in Queen Mary Hospital. Flu symptoms lasted 4 to 5 days.
By July 1968, extensive outbreaks were reported in Vietnam and Singapore. By September 1968, it would reach India, Philippines, northernAustralia and Europe. That same month, the virus entered the California from returning Vietnam War troops. It would reach Japan, Africa and South America by 1969.
I was not taken to the hospital because the doctors I worked with decided to treat me at home with them working with Free Clinic staff, in shifts. They thought, at first, this was no big deal but were very concerned that my fever was shooting upwards, rapidly. I then had trouble breathing. Being semi-conscious, I decided to deliberately cough up the increasing congestion in my lungs so they put a pan next to my head and I would turn and choke it up, frequently.
The fever kept rising. I became very delirious. The staff ran out of ice so they went on the FM radio to ask for ice and local restaurants delivered ice. My fever was now 105 degrees. I was told, much later, that they were discussing how the coffee maker was not working. I briefly came out of my seeming coma and said, ‘Put the coffee on me, I’ll heat it up for you.’
By then, the staff got a report back that the soldier I saved had died. They were already using greater and greater care, not to get sick themselves. By day three, two of the staff were now sick, too. But no one abandoned me and for that, I am eternally grateful. I would have died.
As it was, they kept me hydrated and finally, I came out briefly to the surface to tell everyone, at about 3 am [known as the hour of death, by the way] to whisper, ‘If a bird sings in the window at dawn, I will live.’ And there was this big bush outside the window. At dawn, a wren perched there and began to sing and sing. I sighed and fell asleep and the fever dropped to a mere 101 degrees and I survived…barely.
My brain was fried. I couldn’t read or write. I didn’t know who I was. Amnesia is very peculiar. I didn’t know my parents who seemed to have appeared out of nowhere. My father put up one of my paintings so I could see it. He said, I asked who painted it. I said, ‘That is a wonderful picture, it tells me things about myself. It is the best picture in the whole world. Who painted it?’
Afterwards, I was knocked by pneumonia, lost half of the teeth on my right jaw and had to have a dental surgeon come in to operate. I was a child genius before it but now, had to work to learn things. I told everyone, for years, this actually helped me a great deal because it forced me to think harder and longer in order to comprehend things and the labor was where the value lay. This meant, I had to really collect information before figuring things out.
People are increasingly scared of the newest incarnation of this old disease. This is NOT AIDS. That disease is extremely noxious, spreads via sex and like all sexual diseases, is nearly impossible to get rid of, runs along merrily for millennia and the more you keep people alive who have it, the more they spread it. All viral diseases of the Hong Kong flu type race through populations and then vanish for several generations.
Due to evolution, these flues have their own ‘hockey stick’ graphs. They are not like sexual diseases that simply spread outwards, relentlessly but fairly slowly. These pig flu/avian flu viruses move at tremendous speed and end just as swiftly.
When I got sick, the doctors sent samples to the Federal health authorities for testing. I saw a copy of the report. It said, ‘What the hell is this?’ written off on one side of the report. Viruses have to go dormant and then mutate in order to flourish. They are the nearest life form on earth to the classic ‘go to infinity, fast’ model that I talk about all the time. This is rather funny because viruses are one of the oldest life forms if not the oldest. They prefer non-oxygen environments and when mutations in the early earth waters created photosynthesis organisms, these multiplied very rapidly, pushing hard on the viral community.
Which retaliated by ‘eating’ the photosynthesis creatures. This is why viruses took up housekeeping inside of cellular living creatures. And like bacterium, they are activists who are tremendously successful. Which is why they have these regular boom/bust cycles. That is, not all victims of viral attacks die. And when they survive, they are protected by antibodies [which are very, very ancient!] which is why viral kills come in cycles that are often 20 years apart. This is also why only parts of the population are badly hit.
My parents, for example, as well as the oldest two doctors who attended me, didn’t get this disease at all! Anyone my generation, though, was a prime target. So the doctors forbade anyone under 30 from visiting me! Heh! Once we were certain I was not a danger to others, I could have visitors.
Running around in panic because of a viral surge is useless. You can’t easily hide from it. Sometimes, we must endure unpleasant visits from our fellow living creatures. Viruses are living things, by the way, just as we are. So is bacterium, plankton, etc. All single celled creatures once ruled this planet and used all of its resources for multiplying and dividing. We cannot banish them.
Looking at humans on a more cosmic scale, we are identical to them: we are in the middle of the final stages of our own, epic ‘hockey stick’ growth cycle and are heading towards a crash. As do all living things that end up maxing out natural resources. All of us fear death and understandably so. But Death will visit, invariably. Even the greatest religious figures who found religions die.
Even the very gods die, when the Zodiac stars shift over the eons. We cannot live life in fear of death. During the Black Plague, a truly noxious death visitation, people decided to stop wailing and crouching in fear and began to do the opposite. And the urge to celebrate, have fun and live even as death swings its scythe is one of the more admirable parts of our psychology. Animals, when they get sick, just lie down and passively die [except when they have rabies, another viral innovation that has a mere single celled entity driving its victim to work on behalf of the virus!]. Humans defy Death.
And this is why the latest flu story both worries me and yet, doesn’t worry me. These things are inevitable. I hope my own children don’t get it. I hope, if they do, they get the care I got which saved my life. And I hope hospitals understand that the best way to deal with this is to use OLDER PEOPLE TO CARE FOR THE SICK who are suffering from this disease.
That is, there should be medical protocols for symptoms of this disease. If a patient shows any of these, only certain members of the staff should attend. My doctor and the nurse who got the Hong Kong flu from me also got very, very sick. If proper protocols were used in the beginning, they would have been spared that suffering. But they did suffer less than I and this is due them being cared for instantly whereas, I didn’t know I was ill until it became very obvious.
In conclusion, all of us survivors of the Hong Kong flu should be the ones to care for the victims of this flu. And we should respect viruses more and know that they can evolve faster than we can fight them off. This is their nature, they are one of the Elders on Earth.
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