When one thinks of a deadly enemy, one usually thinks of something big, strong, fast, maybe something like a dinosaur or a huge monster. Or one might think of aliens with sophisticated technology invading the Earth. I remembering reading such a thing like this in the science fiction novel War of the Worlds, where Martians with their superior intelligence and technology sweep in to invade the Earth. Humans, with their primitive canons and artillery, proved to be no match for these aliens, and were destroyed quickly city by city. All hope seemed to be lost for humanity, then suddenly the aliens started dying mysteriously and soon, the Martians retreated back to Mars.
What was it that was killing off these superior aliens? Was it that humans had suddenly innovated a superior weapon? No. Rather, the book tells us that “All over the world, their machines began to stop and fall. After all that men could do had failed, the Martians were destroyed and humanity was saved by the littlest things, which God, in His wisdom, had put upon this Earth.” Yes, what eventually stopped these aliens was not any super duper awesome gun, but rather bacteria.
Or you can add viruses to the mix. Which in the end proves that in this survival of the fittest between two intelligent species, bacteria and viruses came out to be the most powerful. Although that may be fiction, even right now in the real world are we seeing viruses beating the crap out of supposedly the most dominant species on the planet. Just look at West Africa, with the Ebola virus.
Now here’s how viruses basically work. A virus enters the body. It sorta tricks a cell into letting it into the cell because of matching receptors. Once in the cell, it can either be dormant and not do anything for a while, just letting the cell help reproduce its viral RNA/DNA, or it can use the cell to produce more viruses, then breaks apart the cell so that these new viruses can affect other cells. And then the process starts all over again. Now here’s how the Ebola virus works- same process, but deadlier results. First, it just seems like a fever. Then, you start getting pain in the neck and the abdomen, you start getting headaches, you start throwing up. The real pain comes when you start bleeding like hell- not just externally, but internally. And then in around a week, you can expect yourself to die.
To make this virus sound even more deadly, there is no cure and the survival rate is low. And in West Africa, more than 1,200 people have died, with the virus having spread to three countries already, and possibly more. Now, what exactly makes this virus deadly?
1) It’s small. We think that bigger is stronger, but when your enemy is as small as a virus, you can’t tell where the hell it is, but it’s still all around you. Because it’s small, studying your enemy (or the virus) is not just difficult, but even dangerous, given you can be the next victim.
2) It’s contagious and spreads fast. Like I said, in around one week, one can easily die of the virus. This Ebola virus spreads much quicker and more efficiently inside a body than any typical virus. Not just inside the body, but outside the body as well. Bodily contact, direct and indirect, are all means for the virus to spread. There have been even cases where nurses and doctors under full protective body suit are still infected.
Fortunately, two American doctors who were infected have been successfully treated due to an experimental medicine. This has raised hopes that this might eventually be a cure for Ebola. But stopping this virus will take more than medicine, because
3) Fear. Because Ebola is small and not much is known about it, myths have been surrounding this virus in Africa. People who have been infected and cured have been stigmatized when they return home. Many think that it’s the doctors that introduced the virus, and thus this hinders the ability to effectively carry out treatments. Take for instance last week, where rioters frightened by Ebola rampaged a healthcare facility treating Ebola, forcing many Ebola-infected people to flee to other places, further spreading the virus. This and many other nonsense myths about the virus underscore the fear and superstition underlying this virus, and this is perhaps the number one reason why the virus outbreak has not been stopped and is still spreading. Yes, ironically, humans- not the virus itself- are worsening this Ebola disaster. The only cure for this is increased public education about the disease.
And so I will end here. But to me, reason number three brings up a good point. Perhaps the most deadliest enemy is not any creature, whether that be an alien or a virus. Maybe, the most deadliest enemy is perhaps ourselves.