A New Story About Coronavirus

A few months ago, I was taking a hike and scrolling through channels on my Walkman radio. A woman’s spoken voice caught my attention.

At first, I did not know why I kept listening, but after a while I was amazed at how many things this woman said I agreed with. The woman turned out to be science writer Sonia Shah (https://soniashah.com) and she was speaking about pandemics, a topic which she has studied extensively. I was impressed with her broad perspective on cholera, malaria, Lyme, Zika, and other diseases. She seemed to believe that governments are too frequently corrupt, corporations control everything, and environmental degradation is the cause of most human disease. I could not agree more.

Fast forward to July. A friend sent me an email about an article in The Nation entitled “It’s Time to Tell a New Story About Coronavirus – Our Lives Depend on It,”
(www.thenation.com/article/society/pandemic-definition-covid/). Lo and behold, it was written by Sonia Shah.

I was so impressed with the article, I submitted the following letter to the editor. An edited version was published in the Aug 24/31, 2020 edition of The Nation.

An Ounce of Prevention

Kudos to Sonia Shah for pointing out the need to tell a new story about Coronavirus. I don’t think there is anything inherently wrong with germ theory, but as Ms. Shah points out, it doesn’t go far enough. It doesn’t address the question of how or why a host develops a disease. It skips over genetic, epigenetic, and nutritional factors; ignores the influence of medications and other disease states; and fails to address economic, environmental and geographic influences. And if the problem is only defined as the presence of a “germ,” then the solution is seen as killing the germ rather than changing the circumstances that enabled the microbe to cause illness.

The medical community would do well to adopt a broader perspective on illness using the model of integrated pest management (IPM) to control pests. In IPM, the first approach to dealing with insects in a building is not to pull out a poisonous spray, but to remove food and water sources, and seal cracks that allow insects to enter the building. Similarly, to control weeds, IPM focuses on creating healthy turf that is better able to exclude weeds. This approach is in line with the old adage that an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure. May we see the bigger picture of the Covid-19 pandemic and act accordingly.