THIS WEEK'S FEATURE ARTICLES
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Flitting through 366 Days of Tasmania, volume 2 by Thomas Gunn, I was surprised to learn about a Tasmanian ban on animals from India in 1901.
This was due to the cattle disease rinderpest, which gets its name from the German for ‘cattle plague’. The disease had a mortality rate of over 80%. The fact that really caught my eye was that in 2011 the World Health Organisation for Animal Health declared rinderpest eradicated, “only one of two infectious diseases man has been able to eradicate, the other being smallpox”. I would have imagined there had been more.
A recent article in the Guardian explained just how long vaccinations have been around: “more than 2,300 years, to be exact”.
In 400BC, Hippocrates wrote about epidemics of mumps, diphtheria, and jaundice, but not how to prevent their spread.
In 1000AD, the Chinese had
a method called ‘variolation’ to protect from small pox. ‘Variolation’ means deliberately infecting someone with a disease like smallpox to inoculate them.
The story goes that the emperor used to grind up smallpox sores and blow the matter into his children’s nostrils; they lived.
In the 14th century, more than 25 million people died from the Black Death, bubonic plague. The disease still exists today but is rare and there are now
Typhoid fever killed the Prince of Wales, son of King James I in 1612, thought to be the first recorded case of typhoid.
The only weapon earlier civilisations had against infectous disease was variolation. Its popularity grew, especially after Benjamin Franklin’s son died of smallpox in 1736. Franklin famously spoke of his regret at not getting his son inoculated.
In 1796, Edward Jenner invented a smallpox vaccine. Jenner infected people with cowpox, which built up an immunity to smallpox.
In 1966, the World Health Organisation allocated funds to create the Intensified Smallpox Eradication Programme, and the race was on to vaccinate the world. That historic milestone was reached in 1979.
In 1735, diphtheria killed millions in an epidemic, but it was 200 years before a reliable vaccine was found.
In 1885, a rabies vaccine was developed by Louis Pasteur. Despite its effectiveness, it is an ongoing struggle to vaccinate those in less developed parts of Asia
In 1918, Spanish flu arrived on the heels of the devastation of the First World War. The disease is in fact thought to have started in the USA. Spanish flu eventually led to the flu vaccine we are all familiar with, but thousands still die from flu each year. This ‘flu’ is not the same as a ‘cold’, and I have never been able to understand why Australians confuse the two.
Another scourge has been polio, which has been around for thousands of years, and caused major outbreaks such as the one in 1921 that left the future US president Franklin Delano Roosevelt paralysed from the waist down.
A viable vaccine was not produced until 1955. That year also saw a global battle against malaria. Despite this effort, 400,000 lives were lost to malaria in
HIV/Aids was the next affliction to hit the headlines. There is still no vaccine, but antiretroviral medicines have transformed treatment.
This was followed by Sars and then Ebola; thankfully a first vaccine for Ebola was approved
And then along came a novel coronavirus. Covid-19 quickly spread around the world and the hunt for a vaccine was on – a task that usually takes years. It is a credit to the scientists who worked tirelessly to produce the vaccines we now have that we we have made such progress in fighting Covid. Now another race is on to vaccinate the entire world.
In the meantime, the advice is much the same as it was in 1918: “Do not take any person’s breath. Keep the mouth and teeth clean. Avoid those that cough and sneeze. Don’t visit poorly ventilated places. Keep warm, get fresh air and sunshine. Don’t use common drinking cups, towels, etc. Cover your mouth when you cough and sneeze. Avoid worry, fear and fatigue. Stay at home if you have a cold. Walk to your work or office. In the sick rooms, wear a gauze mask.”
Ever had an unfiltered moment? These lapses of control can also be called blurting, and often occur when the mouth is open but the brain is not in gear.
In a radio station I once worked in, there was a poster of a crinkly faced, old-fashioned lady dressed in a crinoline, sitting in an old-style studio, headphones and microphone on. The caption was: “Now don’t forget, dears, remember to switch your brain on before you come to the phone.”
Talkback radio may once have been the go-to for unthinking responses; now we have social media in all its glory. Before any thought has had time to fully form, off people go with a like or an angry emoji or, worse,
a comment. Blurt it goes.
It’s nice to have our say, to be heard, to be part of the conversation. We all want to be listened to and noticed. A social media blurt is all very well, but it can be hard to correct or retract, and can come back to haunt the sender. Ever had one of those moments? You don’t have to be a celebrity, a politician or even a cricket player to realise you probably shouldn’t be blurting. The public record is a graveyard for unthinking responses.
Face to face
At least you can follow a face-to-face blurt with an apology. One day, I was charging through the Centrepoint mall. Being an inveterate observer, I take in everything, including signage and people’s clothing, as I hurry along. Although I don’t wear clothing bearing advertising or slogans, I am still often amused or curious when I see a slogan on a garment. Of course, I need to read it. This is how I had an unfiltered moment that could have been embarrassing. A young man was walking towards me, wearing a T-shirt with a longish slogan on it. I was going to miss the punchline because we were both moving too fast.
Without my filter on, I stopped mid-stride and pointed at his T-shirt. In a commanding, but unfortunately loud voice, I said “Stop! I want to read your
Fortunately, the surprised young man laughed and stopped immediately. I read it aloud, said,
“Oh, very good!” and we all laughed. After I said, “Thank you. Sorry to keep you,” we went about our own business, smiling.
But the situation could have taken a very different tack.
If you enjoy a laugh no matter where you find it, reading T-shirts is often a good way to get a cheap chortle. Here are some of my favourites: “Sweet old lady? More like battle-tested warrior queen”; “Being a grandma doesn’t make me old, it makes me blessed”. Another grandparent slogan: “Assuming I’m just an old lady was your first mistake.”
Wear this one around the grandkids: “Don’t underestimate me:
I know more than I say, think more than I speak, and notice more than you realise.”
Here’s one with a challenge: “UNDERESTIMATE ME. That’ll be fun.”
For the know-it-all in your life: “I’m not arguing. I’m just explaining why I am right.”
A perfect gift for your least-favourite narcissist: “Once in
a while, someone amazing comes along… and here I am.”
I really should get either or both of the following: “Sometimes I talk to myself, then we both just laugh and laugh.”
This one is very on-target: “Hang on: let me overthink this.”
Or for the parent: “Hahaha: NO!” This one should be worn by overstressed public sector workers, service providers and health workers, as a caution to rude customers: “If you think I’m short, you should see my patience.”
One of my favourite spots read: “Don’t trash the planet, it’s where I keep my stuff.”
A timely warning: “I’m vaccinated but I still want you to stay away from me.”
Finally, if this all sounds a little bit silly, this one should be mine: “I never dreamed that one day I’d become a cranky old lady – but here I am, killing it.”
Have a good laugh and a good day.
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