The Virus and the End of Polio

I’ve been following the struggles to end polio for some years. Of course, coronavirus now intensifies my interest. While it’s been eradicated in most of the world, several countries were and are challenges. Somalia finally overcame its problems with the Puntland in 2014. Angola had a resurgence and was able to overcome it. This August Africa was at last declared polio-free. It is because the state of Borno in Northern Nigeria has finally been able to keep its new cases at bay thus enabling the Africa Regional Certification Commission to declare success. Borno is a remote region, a seat of Boko Haram, and the health workers, usually women, bringing the vaccine had a very hard time there including fighting the idea that the vaccine made women infertile. Several lost their lives. To note is that the testimony and examples of polio survivors along with the involvement of the WHO were important part of this achievement. The African success is more than statistics, or the words polio-free. It is a triumph over obstacles conquered one by one over a number of years. It therefore makes it a big achievement not only for Africa, but for the world. Afghanistan and Pakistan are now the only 2 countries left where polio exists. The health workers there face even more obstacles than they did in Northern Nigeria. Many leaders in those countries, particularly in rural areas think of the vaccine as a tool of the Western world, and want little to do with it. In countries where vaccination rates are low, there is also the risk polio could return. While those of us in the West need not be concerned, there is still a little way to go (by comparison to where we began) before the disease can be totally conquered. What makes this story particularly relevant to our struggle with coronavirus is that there is no cure for polio, just as there is no cure for Covid-19. Polio is not as lethal as our present virus can be, and is more likely to affect children under five, sometimes paralyzing them for life or even being a cause of death. Since 1952 when the Salk vaccine was first utilized, polio eradication has been a process. We are so eager for any kind of solutions to our present adjustments that we may not want to admit that our fight with coronavirus is likely to take time. But what is important to remember is that it is not how long it takes, it is being successful that matters in the end.

Mail Carriers and Heat Exposure

It was 90 degrees one day, I waited until it was cooler to walk to the store, and noticed many less people on our street walking their dogs. Most of us avoid heat exposure, something many mail carriers cannot do.  I have a friend who delivers mail in Tucson, Arizona, where the temperature can easily be 115F, and of course when he’s driving, the temperature is at least 10 degrees higher in his vehicle. His route causes him to walk 9.7 miles a day whether it’s hot, or raining, or cold, or blustery, or whatever extremes of temperatures we all usually shun. The Center for Public Integrity recently published an article “Extreme Heat Doesn’t stop the Mail—Even at the Cost of Postal Workers’ Health” which informs us that OSHA the federal Occupational Safety and Health Administration has cited the Postal Service for placing at risk of illness or even death from heat exposure over 900 workers since 2012. Inspectors observed workers with heat related symptoms such as extreme cramps, vomiting while walking, losing consciousness, shooting pains down their legs and in their chest. During their observation period at least 5 carriers died from heat stroke, heat exhaustion, hyperthermia or heart failure.  From January 2015 to October 2018, 93 postal employees were hospitalized. And then there is the issue with vehicles. In 2017 70% of all vehicles did not have air conditioning and there doesn’t seem to be much progress in making sure that has or will be changed in the near future.  Heat poses many dangers to postal workers and the US Postal Service hasn’t addressed those dangers says the article, has not issued standards, has not changed conditions, has not taken enough measures to protect its workforce.  The USPS is a vital part of how our society functions, and as we realize this in the midst of budget and operational cuts along with other USPS upheavals, it is important for us to stop and recognize how much we owe our mail carriers.

Living With The Virus

As we know the virus has altered more activities and affected more economic sectors than we can quickly recall. One is the movie industry searching for how productions could safely resume. Universal Studios latest sequel to Jurassic World can perhaps now set an example, or at least answer some questions. The $200 million production spent $9 million making sure cast and crew would be safe. It issued a 107-page manual and involved the cast in the preparations something that is usually not done. They rented a hotel, and the staff is tested.  The cast and crew are tested Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays. The sets are restricted in the same ways they usually are when intimate scenes are shot. The cast puts on their own microphones. The set is sprayed with sanitizer daily and contacts are minimized in all ways possible. It’s not the details I found relevant, although most of us do enjoy a peek behind the scenes of movie making. What is relevant to all of us is that they did it. They found ways around the norms in order to be safe and do what is necessary to keep the virus at bay. And they did it in a way that is not as expensive as one might think. The cost added less than 5% to their budget.

I chose this article to base my post upon because it’s a reminder and a harbinger. Despite the demands and lack of social distancing inherent in movie production, the measures taken in this case bode well for the economy, certainly, but even more important, bode well for virus protection. They point the way for us to find ways to adjust. Many are rebelling, in denial or complacent, and here is a concrete example to help us accept that normal is now different, and most of all, an example that says yes, we can live with this virus!

About Nuclear Weapons

All we need to do to remember the dangers of nuclear weapons is remember Hiroshima and Nagasaki—and not only the dangers to the planet but to humanity. All it would take is one foolish leader, one foolish decision for the world as we know it to be annihilated. At the present moment nine countries have a stockpile of nuclear weapons:

  • Russia 6375
  • US 5800
  • China 320
  • France 290
  • UK 215
  • Pakistan 160
  • India 150
  • Israel 90
  • North Korea 30-40

The list does not include would be nuclear powers such as Iran or even Saudi Arabia. Obviously, the US and Russia are way ahead. At the present they are at loggers heads on the START Treaty. The treaty seeks to limit the deployment of each at 1500, and both actually agree. But the US wants China to be included in the new treaty. China has refused on the ground that since its arsenal is so much smaller than the other two, why should it limit itself and in its view be at a disadvantage? Unless the treaty is renewed by February 2021, it will expire. And if it does the world will be worse off including China. That is because while there would be no limits, there would also be no transparency as to what other countries are up to.  Eight in ten Americans believe in nuclear arms control treaties and most see nuclear arms as a top threat to national security—the others being terrorism and infectious diseases. As important as renewing this treaty may be, fact is that the limit it imposes on its signatories are still high enough to destroy the world. Treaties are needed but the planet would be safer, saner and in a better position to survive to the future  if we would all work towards a nuclear free world.