Plagues, real and otherwise

Now that we appear to be emerging from the much-ballyhooed pandemic, it might be a good time to consider the real plague and what it might mean to you and me.

By "real plague" I mean the one that destroyed one third of Europe (or 60% of Eurasia) in the 14th century, the bubonic plague or Black Death.  Before you dismiss it as something that could never happen here, it's worth considering a few facts:

  1. Bubonic plague is endemic to California and many of the western states.
  2. It is treatable with antibiotics.  However, as we've learned recently, that is no certain assurance for us.  See below.
  3. The cause of the plague, Yersina pestis, is a bacterium that inhabits fleas commonly parasitizing small animals such as rats. 
  4. The most likely disease vector to affect city-dwellers is the rat.
  5. In California cities, there are two common rats, the roof rat and the Norwegian rat.  As indicated by the name, the roof rat commonly inhabits the roofs of buildings, including homes.  On the other hand, the Norway rat is also known as the sewer rat, for equally obvious reasons.
  6. Sewer rats are comfortable dwelling in sewers both for habitation and their preferred diet.  Sewer rats are known to travel up waste lines and find their way into toilets.  Generally, they succumb in the water in the toilet traps, but not always.  It's anyone's guess if their passenger fleas survive the trip even if the host does not.
  7. Many cities in California are home to exploding populations of both roof and sewer rats.
  8. Despite dealing successfully with these populations for decades, California cities are no longer allowed to use rodenticides (poisons) to control populations in and out of sewers.  The results are predictable.
  9. Not surprisingly, not only are cities prevented from using effective poisons, but so are California citizens. 
  10. As indicated above, fecal matter is a favorite diet of rats.  It's frequently referred to as the rat's Breakfast of Champions.
  11. While the above linked article talks of the wisdom of cleaning up your pet's droppings, it is also worthwhile to consider the burgeoning "homeless" populations in California.  My small northern California hometown is thought to host at least 80 such people.  Who knows the number in the big cities, but I've personally witnessed a bum leaving his calling card at 11:00 AM on a weekday morning on a sidewalk in downtown Oakland.  How often this is repeated every day is something I'd rather not contemplate.
  12. Many voices have warned of an imminent outbreak of the plague as a result of the state's reckless policies toward vagrants.  This is just one.

So here we sit in the 21st century, smugly looking back through the mists of time, confident that such scourges as the Black Death were problems for lesser people who did not possess the advantages of our modern world.  But wait!  What makes you so sure you will have access to things like antibiotics if you fall victim to the plague?

Rosemary Gibson recently rose to fame on the back of her book, China Rx: Exposing the Risks of America's Dependence on China for Medicine.  She and her co-author, Janardan Singh, detail America's stunning dependence on foreign sources, especially China, for our medications, including antibiotics.

Considering their recent behavior, it takes very little imagination to see that if China's Communist Party wanted to bring America to her knees, they need only wait for an outbreak of the plague, and then they could withhold the ingredients needed to make the needed pharmaceuticals, or the drugs themselves.

Welcome to the 14th century.  Bring out your dead!

While the likely starting point for a plague outbreak might be California, as we've learned recently, air travel makes such an event a worldwide problem.  Maybe it's time to revisit some of the more foolish laws, regulations, and policies that are putting Californians and the entire world at risk.

The people we elect can literally kill us.  We all need to vote accordingly.

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