We owe it to the people who love us to take care of ourselves

By Dwayne Walls Jr., Columnist
Posted 8/4/21

Of all the gifts bestowed on our society by the industrial revolution, surely the greatest must be our profound advances in medical science.

Current events aside, vaccination, inoculation, …

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We owe it to the people who love us to take care of ourselves

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Posted

Of all the gifts bestowed on our society by the industrial revolution, surely the greatest must be our profound advances in medical science.

Current events aside, vaccination, inoculation, preventive medicine and preventive hygiene have made once great waves of infection things of the past. Diligent, brave men and women armed with scientific methods fought successful battles against tuberculosis, diphtheria, cholera, whooping cough and many more dangerous diseases.

In 1953, American medical researcher Dr. Jonas Salk announced the development of a vaccine for the prevention of polio, a virus for which there still is no cure. By 1980, smallpox had literally been obliterated, with this once ubiquitous virus confined for study in the petri dishes and test tubes of sterile laboratories.

Smallpox had been the scourge of humanity. Two hundred years ago, nine out of 10 Europeans contracted smallpox, one out of seven died, and most survivors were left disfigured. Nietzsche may have written, “That which does not kill us makes us stronger,” but he probably should have written, “That which does not kill us leaves us maimed for life.”

I have a tiny scar on my upper arm from my smallpox inoculation; everyone who is about my age or older has one, too, but the friends I have who are younger do not. They do not need to be vaccinated against it. Thanks to scientific methods, smallpox is now just a bedtime story.

The fight against infectious disease is often a fight against the conditions that breed the disease. After the Spanish-American War, U.S. Army physician Major Walter Reed led the team who confirmed Cuban doctor Carlos Juan Finlay’s theory that yellow fever was spread by a particular kind of mosquito instead of by direct contact. At around the same time, English doctor Sir Ronald Ross proved the mosquito’s role in spreading the malarial parasite, and French physician Paul-Louis Simond discovered that fleas vectored bubonic plague from rats to humans. The transmission of typhus from person to person by lice was discovered in 1909, lending modern credence to the old saw that “Cleanliness is next to godliness.”

The fight was also aided by more effective drugs. In 1897, German chemist Felix Hoffman synthesized acetylsalicylic acid, a juice found in willow tree bark that eased his father’s arthritic pains. At the time Hoffman was working for Friedrich Bayer & Company, who made both drugs and dyes. They patented this medicine and sold it under the name “Aspirin.” Antibacterial drugs, beginning with the accidental discovery of penicillin in 1928 by Scottish physician Alexander Fleming, have changed the face of modern medicine forever and saved millions of lives. We live longer, healthier lives thanks to the hard work of men and women who often had faith in God above, but always felt that God helps those who help themselves.

Now, more than a century after the triumph of what has come to be called “western” medicine, we find ourselves facing this new virus called COVID-19. For us to believe we can successfully resist this insidious virus with alternative, holistic, traditional, or complementary medicine alone is unrealistic. We cannot ignore it as somebody else’s problem, nor can we simply pray it away. Western medicine alone can mitigate the pain and loss and sorrow that comes with sickness and death. Science is the best weapon with which to battle this plague.

I read in the newspapers that Chatham County, like much of the country, is seeing a rapid increase in the number of COVID-19 cases among our unvaccinated and partially vaccinated citizens. Once again, we are in danger of overwhelming our health system. As a fully vaccinated person in a fully vaccinated household, I would like to encourage anyone reading me now to get vaccinated; I had some muscle aches the next day, but they were soon gone, and they were a small price to pay for knowing my family is safe. And we owe it to the people who love us to take care of ourselves. They want to see you healthy and happy, not in the hospital on a ventilator, and your family certainly does not want to see you dead and buried. Elected officials across the country might disagree on mask policies, but everyone, save for a small, vocal minority, agrees that vaccinations save lives.

So get vaccinated; if not for yourself, then for the ones who love you.

Dwayne Walls Jr. has previously written a story about his late father’s battle with Alzheimer’s disease and a first-person recollection of 9/11 for the newspaper. Walls is the author of the book “Backstage at the Lost Colony.” He and his wife Elizabeth live in Pittsboro.

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