Tuesday, February 4, 2014

We are all doomed from the inside

Book: The Invisible Enemy: A Natural History of Viruses
Author: Dorothy H. Crawford
Published: 2000 (Oxford)
This didn’t make me jump in the shower immediately after reading as I suspected it might because this focuses on viruses which are already too embedded in you to scrub off. Like, ever. Once a virus is let into your cells, they start making the viral DNA and until you start showing symptoms, it’s a free-for-all you won’t even know about.
Viruses are distinct from bacteria but can be mistaken for them, and much like a good number of bacteria species, viruses don’t necessarily do you harm. What’s dangerous is when they start replicating and/or are treated as bacteria, or when they spread before anyone has a chance to figure out medicine, or when they get inside you, stay dormant for twenty years, and then get turned on way after you picked them up. Even the HIV virus can stay quiet for as long as ten years before it starts causing symptoms of AIDS.

This book was written in the 90s, so it’s got a good not-quite-panicked chunk on AIDS, but first it thoroughly explains what a virus is and the different ways it can invade and tracks several historical pandemics as examples. It’s kind of scary stuff, and the medical breakthroughs aren’t 100% up to date, but it’s really interesting so it’s going on the bookshelf.    

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