Tip of the Pandemic Iceberg

Victoria Gill, a BBC science correspondent, recently wrote an article about how the current Coronavirus pandemic likely will not the last pandemic we experience during our lifetime. As humans encroach on the natural world the potential for a viral “spillover” becomes more and more certain. The pandemic we are experiencing is the proverbial tip of the iceberg.

In the last twenty or so years we have experienced the Hendra virus, SARS, MERS, Ebola (there are eight types), avian flu, and swine flu. All of the viruses mentioned here are what we call “zoonotic”, meaning they have been passed on to humans through animals. Zoonosis occurs more often than not when a living reservoir host, such as a plant or animal, harbors a pathogen which is then passed on to an intermediate host. The intermediate host then passes the pathogen on to humans.

In his book “Spillover: Animal Infections and the Next Human Pandemic” (2012) David Quammen outlines the case of the little known Hendra virus, first appearing in Australia, as a prime example of a zoonosis. First appearing in the Brisbane suburb of Hendra in 1994, the virus found it’s natural reservoir host in fruit bats. These fruit bats then passed the pathogen on to horses which would later show symptoms of fever, swelling, bloody froth and exhaustion. According to the World Heath Organization website “The [original] outbreak involved 21 stabled racehorses and two human cases. As of July 2016, 53 disease incidents involving over 70 horses have been reported. These incidents were all confined to the north-eastern coast of Australia. A total of seven humans have contracted Hendra virus from infected horses, particularly through close contact during care or necropsy of ill or dead horses”

Empty Stadiums

Sport is making a return. Finally! I’m a huge NFL fan and thankfully our season hasn’t been impacted as of yet. However, there’s a very real possibility that games may be played in empty stadiums. That has certainly been the case for the Bundesliga, where football (soccer) fans have been forced to watch from the safety of their own homes. The NFL league office is optimistic that fans will be able to attend games, but with – as yet to be confirmed – social distancing protocols in place. It has been rumored that should stadiums remain empty due to the pandemic then fake crowd noise will be piped in to give games a more realistic feel… which is incredibly unrealistic for the LA Chargers, as they don’t have any fans. Here’s an editorial piece about this very story. Enjoy.