The human microbiome is composed of trillions of microbes such as bacteria, viruses, fungi, and protists which influence our health and our decisions. There are also pathogens which threaten to throw off the crucial balance of microbial flora in our bodies and cause us to become sick...and/or take advantage of vulnerable microbial ecosystems. One such microbe, severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2 (SARS-CoV-2) has caused an epidemic of respiratory disease known as coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19), which began in China and has become a global health crisis. I write this now while on self-imposed quarantine; not because I am symptomatic, but rather in the hope of helping limit further spread.
As the pandemic has unfolded, we in America have watched Asian and European nations struggle with advanced stages of the COVID-19 outbreak. Just as the number of new cases in China flattens out, we here in the states are noting the exponential rise. Because the virus is highly contagious via primarily respiratory means and the majority of infected patients are minimally symptomatic, a great deal of transmission has undoubtedly already occurred...well in advance of efforts to invoke "social distancing." How can one be protected from an outbreak such as this? The answers to this question are yet to be clarified but are undoubtedly multiple. It is very clear that the COVID-19 dramatically disproportionately impacts individuals over 65 years old. While specific reasons are not always fully known, this group of patients tends to have more vulnerable immune systems, at least partially due to less diversity of the microbiota. Might this play a significant role in acquiring coronoviral infection and/or developing more serious illness?
Millions of Americans have raided the shelves of America's largest retail stores and have stocked up on crucial supplies and non-perishable goods to last them for weeks in the event of a "house arrest" quarantine. In fact, a recent social media meme shows people flaunting rolls of toilet paper where valuables such as diamonds or cash would otherwise typically be displayed. THIS informative article contains a list of major businesses which have shut their doors as a result of the COVID-19 global dilemma. Like the billion dollar industries listed, my school is temporarily closed, and I, like many of you, am currently on house arrest.
I have received more communication from all of you in the last couple of weeks than at any time previously. We must continue to support and educate one another. My prayers go out to you all; may you, your friends, and family remain in good health as our nation, along with the rest of the world, copes with this pandemic.
Santa Claus brought Jimmy Underwood his first microscope when he was twelve years old.