Sunday, August 10, 2008

More from the dystopian front

Thank goodness for either my little bit of Zen equaminity, the ability to be in denial (or both). I should add, that like most people raised watching movies and television, I pretty much experience non-fiction as fictional, and the fictional as truth. One case in point, which I probably shouldn't announce to the world is that a little part of me believes that there is a Federation of Planets, Captains Janeway and Picard are real people, and that there are indeed Klingons, Vulcans and all the rest of the cast of characters of the Star Trek universe.

It is too bad that this is a fiction, for we certainly can use a being like "Q", who makes all notions of any God's omnipotence seem miniscule. A being from the Q continuum could solve our present problems with a flick of the wrist. Superbugs, for instance, would be gone in a blink.

The latest issue of The New Yorker arrived in the mail today, and in it was an article about the new antibiotic resistant "superbugs". I had known about these already for a variety of reasons, but here's where the article hit me the hardest: the drug companies have no interest in researching new antibiotics that target these new bacteria.

Why is that? You'd think they'd be right on it. But no, it's not a priority because it's not as cost effective as finding new drugs that people have to take forever. In plain language, this means that if you've caught a superbug, you're plain out of luck, but your depression about it can be managed.

No, the drug companies are not interested in drugs that are taken for 10 days to two weeks. They are interested in furthering the notion that emotional distress can be cured with only a pill, and that you don't need to change your diet to lower your cholesterol. They are interested in developing new antibiotics for livestock, however, because these are used continually (and the fact that this usage contributes to the growth of new antibiotic resistant bacteria be damned!)

There really isn't much to say about the state of affairs; it's frightening and I don't want to think about it too much. However, I'd advise anyone to be wary of taking more antibiotics than is absolutely necessary. I'd advise anyone to do whatever one can to avoid a hospital stay. And I'd also advise anyone who does go to the hospital to watch everything very carefully. I've noticed, unfortunately (to say the least), that many hospital workers are not washing their hands, donning gloves or taking precautions not to cross contaminate between patients. Keep an eye on older adjunct workers. I'm serious. I can't tell you how many times I've had my blood taken and had to point out that my skin hadn't been cleaned and prepped before they were about to stick a needle in me. Sometimes the response has been, "Oh, what's the big deal? The needle is sterile." No, it's not. The minute it's taken out of its packaging, it is no longer sterile. It's pretty darned clean, I'll admit to that, but with the number of new superbugs mutating these days, I'm not taking any chances. And neither should you.

I have to say that between reading this New Yorker article and "The Long Emergency", I'm beginning to wonder about our collective ignorance of what's going on in the world. Our willfull ignorance. I'm old enough to remember when AIDS was first discovered. I had friends die. There was an outcry to develop treatment and do research. But now, even as AIDS is ravishing Africa (and other countries, like China, who are rather secretive about it even being there), we all think what we once called "the plague" is behind us.

The new superbugs are not hitting a distinct population, and so there aren't people marching in the streets advocating for government intervention. These diseases tend to hit the elderly the hardest and they are not likely to be forming protest groups like "Act Up" any time soon. Who is going to? Are we going to wait until we have a major pandemic? Unfortunatley, I think the answer may be a depressing "yes, we will".

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