Perspective: Virus Vs. US

May 13, 2020

The iron lung. I first saw one in the newsreel at a Saturday matinee. A young boy was encased in a cylinder like a silo on its side. His head rested on a pillow. A mirror hovered above his eyes so he could see the room behind him. The contraption breathed for him. He was there as long as he lived. Polio -- the scourge virus of our time. Damaging our nervous systems, withering limbs, taking our breath. Silently waiting a new host. Lurking in contaminated food or water or contact with an affected person. I feared polio: wasting away in a hollow chamber. Every drop of water a potential virus attack.

In The Human Body, Bill Bryson describes the battle between viruses and humans as “eternal.” Polio wasted Egyptian pharaohs. It was not alone. We know others: ebola, rabies, cholera. Polio was the curse of our childhood. Our armies, factories, atomic bombs were useless in this war. Only our wits could end polio’s supremacy.

Jonas Salk found the key to arming the wonderful laboratory we all carry in our bodies called the immune system.  A simple vaccination added a new weapon to the immune system’s arsenal.

Yesterday I saw a picture of a ventilator. A scaled down iron lung -- an old answer to a new manifestation of an old enemy.

The Ventilator is straight out of The Matrix pod. A mask covers most of the face. Tubes go from the body to a machine that conveys visual and audible information. The whole apparatus breathes for the inert patient.

The COVID-19 virus spreads among us exponentially. Once again, we have to arm our laboratory -- the immune system -- to defeat this old enemy dressed in new clothes.

We will win the battle; we must.

I’m Karl Winkler and that is my perspective.