Thursday, November 22, 2007

An interesting fact

Your humble Devil maintains a fascination for pathogens in general and viruses in particular, so it is not uncommon for him to be found scrolling through the related pages on Wikipedia, unearthing exciting facts about organisms that kill and maim human beings.

Thus it was, during one of these sessions, that I started reading about smallpox. It remains the only disease to be eradicated (in 1979) by human efforts, and a good thing too; the symptoms are really quite nasty.
In confluent ordinary smallpox, the blisters merge together into sheets which begin to detach the outer layers of skin from the underlying flesh. This form is usually fatal.

Unpleasant enough, one might think: but look at what the haemorrhagic version does.
In the other form of Variola major smallpox, known as hemorrhagic smallpox, a mortality of 96 percent has been reported. An entirely different set of symptoms starts to develop. The skin does not blister, but remains smooth. Instead, bleeding occurs under the skin, making the skin look charred and black (this is known as black pox). The eyes also hemorrhage, making the whites of the eyes turn deep red (and, if the victim lives long enough, black). At the same time, bleeding begins in the organs. Death may occur from bleeding (fatal loss of blood or by other causes such as brain hemorrhage), or from loss of fluid. The entry of other infectious organisms, since the skin and intestine are no longer a barrier, can also lead to multi-organ failure. This form of smallpox occurs in anywhere from 3–25% of fatal cases (depending on the virulence of the smallpox strain).

Not a fun way to go at all. But the most amazing fact is the sheer colossal number of people that smallpox has killed.
Smallpox was responsible for an estimated 300–500 million deaths in the 20th century.

Three hundred to five hundred million deaths in the twentieth century alone. And it was certified as eradicated in 1979, so in a mere 79 years it killed 300–500 million! Fucking hell: it makes our loony Lefty dictators look like fucking amateurs.

And the cost was not small.
In the final tally, the U.S. had applied $300 million to the eradication program.

Just to ram home the point that money saves lives and that encouraging economic growth will allow yet more money to be ploughed into curing or vaccinating against diseases and so saving millions of lives.

This is a theme that Timmy wrote movingly about, yesterday, when fisking that tedious, self-satisfied twat, Stephen Fry.
The thing is, what’s at stake if climate change is not in fact true (not actually my own belief) and we go ahead and slow down world growth is not a certain amount of personal inconvenience.

It’s the continued absolute poverty of billions upon billions of human beings. It’s the continuation of parents seeing a quarter or a fifth of their children dying before their 5 th birthday, the continuation of under-, mal- and insufficient nutrition, something that blights the lives of and stunts the mental and physical development of hundreds of millions. It’s the continuation of the peasant lifestyle for for some 2 billion across the world.

To those who want to slow down economic growth, we really ought to come out and state explicitly what the result of their actions will be: quite simply, it means the unnecessary death of millions upon millions of people.

It's murder, if you like.

2 comments:

wildgoose said...

If you want to read about Smallpox you should read this fantastic article:

The Demon in the Freezer

bernard said...

Haemorrhagic smallpox. Pah, that's nothing.
Try Necrotizing fasciitis. The skin actually comes away from the underlying tissues, giving a repulsive, no-hoper, death-mask look.
Very similar to Gorden Brown's face in fact.