Stampedes and Solace

 

By Dr. Jim Ferguson

 

Three weeks ago, who would have imagined that the stock market would fall 8000 points, OPEC would dissolve in an oil war between Saudi Arabia and Russia, Bolshevik Bernie’s campaign would go from the lead to the sewer, sports would cease and the world would lose its mind over the Wuhan coronavirus? In such times where do you turn for solace and wisdom?

When I was in the sixth grade, we had to memorize poems and recite them in front of the class on Friday afternoons. I hated this, but understandable, given that I was an underachiever until college. I’ve come to appreciate the value of memorizing poems and scripture where I find beauty, wisdom and comfort. Billy Graham once wished he had memorized more scripture, because as he aged his failing vision made it difficult for him to read the Bible.

During the Great Depression, President FDR observed, “All we have to fear is fear itself.” And it is true today. What is it about us that makes us so fearful and prone to panic? Why are we subject to mindless manipulation by fear mongers?

I have a bird feeder outside my study which is enjoyed by two dozen varieties of birds. Squirrels also love the seeds scattered to the ground by pecking fowl. My wild friends don’t seem to care that I’m just ten feet away, separated only by a window. However, they are on constant alert as they forage, because if I stand up, they scatter to the wind as if I had shot a gun. I haven’t heard any gunshots, but a stampede of the herd is underway in America.

Humans are imbued with reason, but I’m amazed by our irrational herd-like mentality when manipulated by the perverse media. Apparently, the vestigial “fight or flight” response is deeply imprinted in our DNA and activated by cries of bird flu! swine flu! Wuhan flu! or the dire predictions of hurricanes each fall.

Physiologically, a fight or flight response has survival benefits. The birds at my feeder are hyper alert for danger and flee quickly to safety with any change in their immediate environment, just as rich New Yorkers are fleeing to the Hamptons. I once asked my brother why cardinals are so skittish. He said, “You would be too if you had a coat of red feathers.”

Adrenaline is our fight or flight hormone. Recently, our home security alarm went off, and I hurried home to check things. I found our back door open. Anxious adrenaline was pumping as I searched the house, allayed somewhat because I was armed. I didn’t panic or lose my mind, and fortunately there were no bad guys in the house. (We think the back door was left ajar and the wind blew it open.)

People ask me about the Wuhan-coronavirus and I tell them I remain vigilant, but rational. I discussed common sense changes we should all make in last week’s column available in the archives section of knoxfocus.com. Read it and share my column with others!

It is challenging to remain contemporaneous with a weekly column, but the advantage I have is a more reasoned perspective since I can sift through all the politicized “news” before offering my observations.

In reading about Covid-19 (some say it is racist to use the term Wuhan- coronavirus) I came upon an epidemiological term called R0 or R-naught. This “basic reproduction number” is an estimate of the number of people who will be infected after exposure to someone ill. For an infection to persist the R0 must be greater than one (one person infected from exposure to an individual with a viral infection). For comparison, the R0 for polio, smallpox and rubella (German Measles) is 5-7. Red Measles is 12-18! The R0 for seasonal flu is 1.9, whereas Covid-19 is thought to be 1.4 (WHO estimate).

I’m a big believer in quarantine of sick individuals to stop the spread of infection, but I wonder if New York Governor Cuomo actually believes he can isolate New Rochelle, NY with his “containment zone.” You can’t “contain” the common cold so it is irrational to think Cuomo’s sanctuary state can contain coronavirus!

Have you wondered how positive coronavirus tests are popping up everywhere? If we suppose this new virus surfaced in Wuhan China, how did it get to middle Tennessee? It might make sense if someone had traveled to China, had visitors from Wuhan, flown on an airplane or sailed the seven seas. Perhaps people are not being honest regarding their exposure or their travels. Or perhaps the reported “tests” are inaccurate. Or perhaps the older tests cannot differentiate between Wuhan coronavirus and the other coronaviruses which cause 15-30% of common colds.

The CDC has developed accurate and specific tests which were only possible after the relatively recent DNA sequencing of the Covid-19 virus. The CDC tests are now coming on line and will tell us the answer. If I were a conspiracy-minded person, I might conclude the Chinese tests were accurate because they had the Covid-19 DNA sequence of the virus they created.

You might be surprised to learn that the most common scriptural admonition is not to love but, “Fear not.” Apparently, the Shepherd understands his flock. Daily I turn to prayer and scripture for His solace and wisdom. I don’t turn to the NYT, MSNBC or CNN, whose goal is to destroy Trump and will accept collateral damage to America and even their own 401K.

Until we know more, “keep your head when all about you are losing theirs” (Rudyard Kipling). Be sensible by avoiding crowds, washing your hands and using hand sanitizers. The Wuhan coronavirus is a respiratory virus, so use reason and common sense. Congressman Tim Burchett quipped, “This is a respiratory virus. It makes no sense to horde toilet paper.”

Incidentally, if you can’t find hand sanitizers you can make your own by combining 2/3 cup of 90-100% isopropyl (rubbing) alcohol, 1/3 cup of aloe gel and 8-10 drops of essential oils for fragrance. Apply this concoction generously to environmental surfaces including your hands. But note, I am not a bartender and this cocktail is not to be swilled!

 

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