Health & Wellness

Ounce of prevention is good advice today

In 1733, Benjamin Franklin, a native of Boston, then a prominent citizen of Philadelphia, made a visit to his hometown and was vastly impressed how well the city had organized and prepared for handling fires.
On his return to Philly he urged the city fathers to implement some changes. Not satisfied with the resulting efforts, he sent an anonymous letter to his own newspaper, The Pennsylvania Gazette, which was published in the February 4th, 1735 issue.
Under the pen name, an “Old citizen,” his letter titled “Protection of Towns from Fire” begun thusly: “In the first Place, as an Ounce of Prevention is worth a Pound of Cure, I would advise ’em to take care how they suffer living Coals in a full Shovel, to be carried out of one Room into another…” He continued on with other admonishments on handling fire, recommendations for chimney sweeps, and calls for organized fire societies.
He was addressing fire danger when he gave birth to the phrase, “an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.” Today his phrase is more associated with sickness and health.
Now as our attention is inflamed with feverish anticipation of a possible worldwide health crisis, Franklin’s words offer our best approach to helping check the spread of this infectious disease and give us some peace of mind as well, taking steps to avoid needing that pound of cure.
In last week’s Chronicle edition there was an excellent guide, headlined “Virus issues linger,” by executive editor Erin Tierney. The piece is full of practical techniques to help keep you and your family safe and just as important, how not to spread the virus to those who are most at risk.
The article contained a section of information from the Oregon Public Health Authority and a list of resources for information you can call (211) or find online.
I will share some of the ways the precautions are affecting Cottage Grove but first I want to give you a virus clinic.
As a licensed Biology teacher it was often my role to help students understand these mysterious entities, viruses. Their name comes from the Latin (which in turn has roots to earlier languages) meaning “poison.”
There is still plenty of debate among scientists as to precisely how “alive” viruses are. Most say virus entities are at the edge of life. While they contain genetic material, either DNA or RNA segments protected by a protein coat, they have little else that living things possess such as cell structure and organelles.
But they can and do evolve through genetic mutation, a reason that we can keep getting the common cold. The cold virus changes enough to fool our immune system time and time again.
To reproduce they must invade a living cell of its host. Once past the cell’s defenses the virus hijacks cell machinery and uses the cell’s materials to reproduce many copies of itself. When it has used up all it can, the new viruses break out of the depleted cell and find another host cell to continue its carnage.
Early germ fighters like Louis Pasteur were mystified by virus-caused diseases like rabies. The viral particles are not visible by optical microscopes. It was only when electron microscopes became available that the structure and features could be described.
Viruses are the most abundant biological entities on the planet. They are found in all environments and infect plants, animals, bacteria, and archaea. Most viruses have a narrow range of who they can infect. We are safe from plant viruses but general viruses can attack a wide range of mammals. Others specialize to a single species. Some viruses can, through mutation, move from birds to humans. There is evidence that the current situation is a mammal-to-human jump.
Some of the more familiar viral-caused diseases are chicken pox, influenza (flu), mumps, measles, herpes, shingles, and viral forms of: gastroenteritis, hepatitis, meningitis, and pneumonia. Antibiotics are of no use against viruses. They are very effective against bacteria but viruses present the challenge of not being alive enough to attack in the same way. There are some drugs that are antiviral, but their range is limited.
Our body’s immune system is the best chance we have when it comes to viruses. Once it recognizes the virus is present it starts to ramp up the defenses. The key is recognizing proteins in the virus’ coating and blocking access to cells.
Infected cells can signal to T cells (a lymphocyte-type of white blood cell), the foot soldiers of the immune system, which then destroy them before the replicated viruses can be released. Interferons are proteins that are released by virus-infected cells which warn neighboring cells and help attract T cells, thus eliminating the virus. Antibodies recognize and attach to viruses and help neutralize them.
Viruses are classified by several criteria: Shape, genetic material, host organism, and type of disease they cause. These family groups are useful when planning responses to the disease they cause.
The family causing our current crisis are called corona viruses. They are covered with hook-like glycoprotein spikes. When viewed under the early two-dimensional electron microscopes, these viruses appeared to have a “crown” or halo of spikes, which latinized into “Corona.”
We already have made their acquaintance. The SARS (Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome), MERS (Middle East Respiratory Syndrome, and now COVID-19 (CoronaVirus Disease 2019) are all corona viruses.
Since this virus attacks the respiratory system, that is the gateway for transmission. Airborne virus particles seem to be the most likely way this virus enters the body. While it is certainly important to observe vigorous hand washing and limiting facial contact, the most effective way to limit its spread is to stay away from crowds and people. This realization has led to the canceling of public events, from the NBA season to bridge clubs.
The City of Cottage Grove issued a news release last Thursday, alerting residents of precautions and closures.
Around town, announcements of actions being taken to avoid crowds and contact have appeared taped up on windows and on Facebook on the “What’s going on in Cottage Grove” group page.
A sampling include: No Art Walk on Friday, bingo is out at the Elks Lodge for at least three weeks, a few churches have suspended public worship out of concern for their congregations, and the Daugherty Pool is closed for at least two weeks.
KNND radio will air closures on Saturday’s Swap & Shop from 10-11 a.m.
The listserv (and the paper version placed around town) of community happenings “Around the Grove” edited by Cindy Weeldreyer will also try to keep you posted on corona-induced reschedules, cancelations, and closures. In general it would be advisable before you go to any event or regular activity, to call and confirm that it is happening.
Now that the kids are home, and you can’t go to your planned event, and the stores are picked clean, what can you do and still be safe from the COVID-19? Here are some suggestions: Have family time, read a book out loud, clean out the attic, closet, or garage, attack that project that you have been meaning to do all these years, call an old friend, arts & crafts, write a letter to a family member you haven’t contacted for a while, sing favorite songs, go for a walk (if you haven’t made it to the Swinging Bridge yet, I recommend it as a destination!), dig out the board games or puzzles, play some music, do some baking, read The Chronicle, prep for a garden or yard work, and most of all take care of yourself.
To help keep your body ready to fight off a possible corona infection you want to build it up with exercise, good nutrition, lots of fluids, plenty of sleep, vitamins, and a calm mind. Stress and worry about getting it won’t help at all.
Contact Dana Merryday via email at [email protected].



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