If bacteria and viruses are predators and we are prey, what are vaccines?

watchtower with soldiers

Imagine an idyllic village nestled in a jungle clearing.

The people are prospering because they have easy access to animals for meat, copious river fish, and abundant roots, nuts and tubers. There’s just one problem: the same land that feeds them so generously is filled with predators who attack them. Lions and tigers eat the villagers, elephants stampede and even small animals drag their children away, never to be seen again.

[pullquote align=”right” cite=”” link=”” color=”” class=”” size=””]Once predators get through the fence they can attack anyone and typically kill the most vulnerable.[/pullquote]

The villagers’ first thought is to create better weapons with which to kill marauders. They keep their spears that kill at close range, but add bows and arrows to kill predators long before they can get close enough to harm anyone. It’s not perfect, but it works well … in the daytime. Eventually the villagers have to sleep and nearly every night, someone, often a child, is eaten.

Then they decide to built a wooden wall complete with wooden watch towers. Powerful or determined predators can scale the wall, but the watchers alert the villagers who use their weapons to kill them. This turns out to be an excellent solution. As each new home is built in the village, the owner is required to expand the fence.

It’s not a perfect system, of course. Every now and then a predator manages to scale or breach the fence, but the watchtowers allow for advance warning so the villagers invariably meet the predator with immediate and deadly force.

Several generations pass and one day a villager has the terrible misfortune to watch his child die when one of the heavy timbers being used to construct a new watchtower falls over and crushes her. He grieves deeply.

“Why,” he asks, “are we repeatedly extending the fence as the village grows and building new watchtowers? No one has been killed by a predator in several generations. My daughter died because of a fence no one needs. Let’s stop extending the fence and building watchtowers. Don’t let another child die like my daughter did!”

All the villagers feel sorry for the grieving father, but most recognize that the reason that that no one has been killed by a predator for several generations is because of the fence and watchtowers, not in spite of them.

A few of the father’s friends, however, fear that what happened to his child might happen to one of their children. They decide that when they build their new houses, they will not extend the fence around it; they will simply leave it open. Others caution them about the risk, but they point out that they are well armed and can simply shoot any predators that make it through the gap.

At first it seems that the father was right. Leaving a few segments of the fence open appears to make no difference. The fence perimeter is nearly a mile around and the scattered openings represent only a few feet. Every now and then the child of parents who refused to extend the fence is dragged away and eaten, but those grieving parents bear the horrible result of their personal decision. And, as they are quick to point out, none of their children are ever crushed by fence timbers.

Over several years the number of homeowners who leave their portion of the fence open slowly increases. Then something strange starts to happen. Villagers who live inside the fence are attacked by wild animals. An alligator drags off the child of a villager who had faithfully extended his fence and built a watchtower to go with it.

Why are people well protected by the fence being killed by predators?

The reason isn’t hard to fathom. A few small gaps in a large fence offered great protection even if it wasn’t perfect protection. A predator would only be able to gain access to the village if it found an opening by chance. As the number of gaps grew, the chance that a predator would stumble upon one and then enter the village also grew. The predators now had access to the entire population of the village and didn’t necessarily stop after killing someone near the gap. The fact that those living closest to the gap have powerful weapons isn’t particularly helpful. They aren’t constantly standing guard so they can easily be caught unawares.

What does that have to do with vaccination?

Bacteria and viruses are the predators and we are the prey. What are vaccines? They are the fence and watchtowers. Vaccination is an early warning that allows the immune system to meet any threat with immediate and deadly force in the form of antibodies. Yes, you can fight an infection without having been vaccinated just as you can fight a predator as it is dragging off your child. But forewarned is forearmed in infectious disease just as it is in mortal combat.

Anti-vaxxers are like the grieving father and his friends. They are more frightened of falling fence timbers than of lions and tigers. They no longer see lions and tigers as a threat because they’ve been kept out of the village, but predators are deadly whether you have seen them recently or not.

Anti-vaxxers create holes in the immune fence that protects all of us. They risk the health of everyone, not just their own children.

When you understand that vaccines function as the fence you can see the absurdity of anti-vax claims. Insisting no one who is vaccinated needs to fear the unvaccinated is like insisting that no one needs to fear a few gaps in the fence that keeps out the lions and tigers so long as the gaps are only near those who don’t like the fence. Once the predators get through the fence they can attack anyone and typically kill the most vulnerable no matter how desperately their parents try to protect them. Similarly, once bacteria and viruses get through the immune fence created by vaccination, they can attack anyone and typically kill the most vulnerable no matter how desperately their own parents try to protect them.

Leaving gaps in the fence is an invitation to predators. Leaving gaps in vaccine immunity is an invitation to predators, too. Pertussis and measles may not look as harmful as lions and tigers, but they can be every bit as deadly.

166 Responses to “If bacteria and viruses are predators and we are prey, what are vaccines?”

  1. Sue
    September 16, 2016 at 12:11 am #

    OT: Australian Coronial report into Homebirth death:

    “There is no doubt that Dr McK (family GP) gave F a firm warning that her current birth plans were inappropriate. However he was trying to balance giving this advice against the possibility of permanently alienating his patient and thereby losing any possible influence. It was no doubt a difficult task. Both F and P had firmly held views. P told the inquest that although he and his wife liked Dr McKiernan, the doctor, Dr McK, was operating under his “conditioning”. P said Dr McKiernan advocated for a hospital
    birth, but it was his “indoctrination’ that lay behind his advice. It was P’s view that “anyone who works for a hospital would advocate a hospital birth” P remembered the doctor suggesting that any home birth was risky and he said to Dr McK “well I really appreciate your opinion and thank you very much for that and from the people we know, from our life and experience and the many midwives I’ve been around, they feel that a hospital birth is just as much threat” P believed that he was choosing the safer option and protecting his unborn child from the fear, dogma and illusion prevalent in the hospital system.”

    Firmly entrenched ideology indeed.

    • Stephanie Rotherham
      September 16, 2016 at 12:04 pm #

      Oh God.

    • Roadstergal
      September 16, 2016 at 5:12 pm #

      Fear, dogma, and illusion. Ironically, that is the frikkin’ tagline of NCB.

    • The Computer Ate My Nym
      September 17, 2016 at 6:37 pm #

      And let me guess: They’re now trying to blame the doctor for the death, right?

  2. MichelleJo
    September 15, 2016 at 11:46 am #

    One word: Brilliant

  3. Kerlyssa
    September 14, 2016 at 9:20 pm #

    I’ve always likened it to training a dog or a police officer. You can wait until a criminal/germ attacks, and they’ll (probably)figure out how to respond eventually, or you can train them(vaccinate) how and who to attack before it happens, and they’ll be more effective and more likely to stop the crime/infection before damage occurs.

    • Kerlyssa
      September 14, 2016 at 9:32 pm #

      and then herd immunity is like roaches in an apartment building. even if you keep your place really clean, if the neighbors all leave food on the floor you’re gonna get bugs(if you keep your place clean, why do you care what the neighbors do?). idk. i like living analogies, since the immune system is a living system, and diseases are/reproduce via living beings. most people have a basic grasp of how living systems behave, they just don’t extrapolate. for various reasons…

  4. demodocus
    September 14, 2016 at 8:39 pm #

    This is my favorite of your analogies

  5. Laura J
    September 14, 2016 at 8:10 pm #

    Interesting theory. I have a theory too. What if viruses & bacteria are Earth’s defenses when we overpopulate? What if when we destroy a forest, or a natural disaster occurs, diseases are inevitable. When a species gets to great, then disease is inevitable to pick them off. Not all of them would get affected, but some. We’ve become so comfortable with having clean water and access to meats, vegetables, grains and such and have choices to maintain our diet. But here’s the thing. The more we pollute the soil, the animals eat the grass, the meat eaters eat them and the cycle continues.
    If viruses & bacteria are predators…and predators usually have eyes in the front, not to the side…what else could they be? And then there are prions.

    • Amy Tuteur, MD
      September 14, 2016 at 8:27 pm #

      Bacteria and viruses were more dangerous when the world was less populated, suggesting your theory is nonsense.

      • Laura J
        September 14, 2016 at 8:53 pm #

        BUT, they cull overpopulations. Your theory, prove it.

        • Azuran
          September 14, 2016 at 9:19 pm #

          They don’t ‘cull’ overpopulation. They just exist and do their things. Viruses and bacteria where killing humans back when we were an endangered specie. They are still killing members of endangered species of animals all the time.
          They have no design other than to survive and reproduce, the same as any other living organism.

          • Laura J
            September 14, 2016 at 9:28 pm #


          • Sean Jungian
            September 14, 2016 at 10:30 pm #

            Likewise, the planet has no need of defenses, overpopulation of any species included. Organisms on Earth either adapt to the environment or die out. A planet is a planet regardless of what organisms live on it, or if it is a sterile, lifeless rock.

            If a planet were able to evolve and develop a defense, it would have to be against being destroyed by a supernova or something.

            This person seems to think the planet itself is a living organism?

          • Laura J
            September 15, 2016 at 8:23 am #

            what if..we are insignificant to think we are better than nature.

          • Sean Jungian
            September 15, 2016 at 8:41 am #

            What does this string of random words even mean?

            There is no “better than” or “worse than” nature. Nature simply is. Humans – like any organism – are either successful living in their environments, or they are not. Any moral value assigned to this is purely a figment of your imagination.

          • Laura J
            September 15, 2016 at 5:33 pm #

            Survival of the fittest is not imagination but is. Going back to predatory viruses & bacteria as the article explains, should we call them predatory? There are some bacteria as Mel describes clarifies one aspect of it. Viruses need a vector and a cell opening on the cell to cause infections. It has been a question whether they are living things or just particles of DNA or RNA.

          • Sean Jungian
            September 15, 2016 at 5:39 pm #

            So your entire issue with Dr. Amy’s analogy – and it is an analogy, do you understand what an analogy is? – your entire issue with it is, you don’t think the term “predator” should apply to viruses and bacteria? Am I understanding the crumbs of meaning you’ve dropped here and there in the thread?

            Fine, change the analogy to “opportunistic parasitical organisms”. You are being purposely obtuse.

          • Laura J
            September 15, 2016 at 9:24 pm #

            Sean, analogy is great. It got me thinking, too. I love it. Brings me back to the biology professor in college. Darwin, survival of the fittest, natural selection etc. Whether or not it’s a theory, those pathogens find the opportunity.
            Ok I am tired, been a long day. Thank you.

          • Chi
            September 16, 2016 at 12:09 am #

            And anti-vaxxers are the ones providing them the opportunity. Or did you miss that part of the analogy?

          • Michael McCarthy
            September 15, 2016 at 8:39 pm #

            “Survival of the fittest is not imagination but is.”
            survival of the fittest is a bastardized (and incorrect) summation of the theory of evolution.

          • MaineJen
            September 15, 2016 at 9:20 am #

            We may be insignificant in the larger scheme of the universe, but my family and friends are certainly significant to me, and I’m going to to all I can to protect them, including vaccination. Are you content to stand by and let your family and friends be “culled” by a vaccine preventable disease because humans are sooooo insignificant? Or would you be rushing to the emergency room, begging the (evil big-pharma controlled) doctors to save them?

          • Laura J
            September 15, 2016 at 11:56 am #

            I think the topic was whether they were predatory. People are the captain of their health even if we try to do what we can for them. Each respond differently t treatments. Some bounce back quicker than others. Others have antibodies against certain bacteria & viruses.

          • MaineJen
            September 15, 2016 at 2:19 pm #

            “People are the captain of their health?” Um what

          • Laura J
            September 15, 2016 at 2:28 pm #

            You make choices about it. right?

          • Roadstergal
            September 15, 2016 at 3:10 pm #

            Yes, I make a lot of choices to better my health. Vaccination is one of them.

          • Heidi
            September 15, 2016 at 3:34 pm #

            Do you not remember that day you were born when you were given the choice of who to be born to and where to be born?! I know I was all, “I will choose the middle class people who live in a first world country with vaccines, clean water, safe abundant food, decent human rights, and top notch healthcare, please!” Too bad others didn’t make such good decisions, being the captains of their health!

          • September 15, 2016 at 4:09 pm #

            I remember that day. I also decided to be born at 28 weeks with my twin sister. It’s amazing how the two of us were able to figure out that our placentas had intergrown and were actively failing. Alas, we couldn’t figure out how to kick the right vessels to stop the problem.

            After all, we choose these things….right?

          • Laura J
            September 15, 2016 at 9:14 pm #

            Heidi, I remember sitting in my car seat when I was 2 and looking at my parents in the living room.

            Mel, I was supposed to be a Christmas baby, but in January.

          • Ron Roy
            September 16, 2016 at 5:45 pm #

            ”Yes, I make a lot of choices to better my health.”Vaccinations are NOT one of them.

          • September 16, 2016 at 5:57 pm #


            Kids of about 10 or so do tend to at least know about healthy eating. All the apples in the world won’t help if the hypothetical kid has abusive parents though.

          • Nick Sanders
            September 15, 2016 at 3:41 pm #

            Victim blaming, pure and simple.

          • mabelcruet
            September 15, 2016 at 8:25 pm #

            Completely-its basically ‘you’re weak, you don’t deserve to live’. Obviously the anti-vaxxers are relying on their patronus or whatever magical thinking they conjure up to protect them.

          • Nick Sanders
            September 15, 2016 at 3:42 pm #

            So, what could I have done to captain my health differently so I didn’t get hospitalized by pneumonia when I was four years old?

          • momofone
            September 16, 2016 at 4:26 pm #

            Nick, are you trying to get out of accepting responsibility for your poor choices when you were four?

            I didn’t have pneumonia when I was four. See? Much better choices.

          • The Bofa on the Sofa
            September 15, 2016 at 2:31 pm #

            This is nonsense.

            Do you ride in a car? If so, why do you think you are better than nature? Nature gave you two legs. People invented the bicycle.

            Never fly in an airplane? If nature intended us to fly, we would have wings and hollow bones.

            Certainly, we are better off with technology. To suggest otherwise is idiocy. And vaccines, and other healthcare, is technology.

          • Sue
            September 16, 2016 at 12:27 am #

            Perhaps Laura J should go back to communicating “naturally” – this internet stuff is too challenging.

          • September 16, 2016 at 5:56 pm #

            And the internet….

          • Roadstergal
            September 15, 2016 at 3:09 pm #

            I would almost certainly have been dead by now if left to ‘nature.’ I would definitely have unwanted children and would be unable to see.

            Yes, we’re better than ‘nature’. You’re typing on a computer on a network that stretches over continents. If you don’t think that’s better than ‘nature’, why aren’t you out yelling this on a street corner instead?

            Our giant brains are ‘natural.’ Manipulating the environment to make it work better for us is ‘natural.’

            There’s a high degree of negative correlation between infant/childhood mortality and birth rates. When half of your kids are going to die, you have 10-15 kids. If you want to cull overpopulation, the answer is using our brains to make effective birth control, not killing off our kids.

          • September 16, 2016 at 5:56 pm #

            Please demonstrate your commitment to this belief by communicating this to us over smoke signals and never using the internet again.

          • Laura J
            September 16, 2016 at 7:20 pm #

            You try it. Come on…nope. Did you text that and drive?

          • September 16, 2016 at 8:05 pm #

            Why would I need to try it? I’m not the one advocating that we can’t improve on nature.

          • Laura J
            September 16, 2016 at 8:10 pm #

            There’s two on here who get it. Too bad it’s not you. G ‘day.

          • September 16, 2016 at 8:12 pm #

            It’s called reductio ad absurdum. It’s your own logic….if you think that shows a lack of understanding….well….

          • kfunk937
            September 16, 2016 at 4:13 pm #

            Gaia-ist? That’s where I usually see the “Mother Earth defending herself” garbage come up. Buncha New Agers.

          • The Bofa on the Sofa
            September 15, 2016 at 2:29 pm #

            They don’t ‘cull’ overpopulation.

            To be fair, in places that are overpopulated, left unchecked, they will cull it. Then again, left unchecked, they will also take out places that are underpopulated.

            The Native Americans certainly hadn’t overpopulated North America before the Europeans showed up, but that didn’t stop disease from wiping them out.

        • Irène Delse
          September 15, 2016 at 3:11 am #

          So basically, the poor are made to suffer and die from the sins of the rich? Sorry, even as a spiritual analogy, your “theory” is terrible.

        • MaineJen
          September 15, 2016 at 9:16 am #

          So, you’d rather these diseases still “culled” our family and friends? Or are you laboring under the assertion that it will always be others who succumb, and not your loved ones?

          • Laura J
            September 15, 2016 at 11:57 am #

            Nature’s way, unfortunately.

          • MaineJen
            September 15, 2016 at 2:20 pm #

            So you’d be okay with an epidemic wiping out half your family…a thing that used to actually happen before modern medicine.

          • Laura J
            September 15, 2016 at 2:28 pm #

            that’s not about bacteria bring predatory.

          • MaineJen
            September 15, 2016 at 3:02 pm #

            It’s about the herd being culled. Your words, not mine.

          • September 15, 2016 at 4:13 pm #

            When an organism uses another organism* for food, we use the term predation to describe the relationship. Bacteria use human flesh for food. This makes bacteria predatory on humans.

            This is not an unusual or different use of the word predatory or predator, either.

            *In an interesting historical precedent, we created the term “herbivory” to describe when organisms eat plants instead of “predation”. IMHO, that set back our understanding of plant-animal relations by quite a bit since many animal scientists can fail to appreciate how plants protect themselves against animal predation.

          • Sean Jungian
            September 15, 2016 at 4:40 pm #

            I think this is honestly her issue – that viruses and bacteria do not have eyes on the front of their heads signifying “predator”…hoo boy…

          • Laura J
            September 15, 2016 at 4:43 pm #

            but it’s a theory

          • Sean Jungian
            September 15, 2016 at 5:24 pm #

            I suspect English is not your native language, and in fact I’m being generous in doing so. You are unable to communicate coherently. These sentence fragments and word salads that you are dishing out mean nothing. This isn’t even a sentence, and I have no idea what you are talking about.

          • Laura J
            September 15, 2016 at 5:27 pm #

            Prove the theory that bacteria & viruses are predators is true, then.

          • The Bofa on the Sofa
            September 15, 2016 at 5:30 pm #

            It’s not a “theory,” it’s based on the definition of predator. Read Mel’s response.

            When an organism uses another organism* for food, we use the term predation to describe the relationship. Bacteria use human flesh for food. This makes bacteria predatory on humans.

          • Sean Jungian
            September 15, 2016 at 5:34 pm #

            There’s nothing to prove. As Mel and Bofa have both indicated, using the term “predator” or “predatory” is perfectly valid when discussing a virus and or bacterium.

            You are still not making any sense whatsoever. If you have an issue with the definition of “predator” then state your issue. There’s no “theory” involved.

          • Nick Sanders
            September 15, 2016 at 9:14 pm #

            It’s not a theory, it’s an analogy.

          • Roadstergal
            September 16, 2016 at 5:15 pm #


          • Monkey Professor for a Head
            September 16, 2016 at 5:57 pm #


          • Nick Sanders
            September 16, 2016 at 11:43 pm #

            That whole episode was fantastic.

            “Mayhem Caused. Monsters Certainly Not Involved.”

          • Nick Sanders
            September 15, 2016 at 3:40 pm #

            You know what? Fuck nature then. We have a brain, and our nature is to change out environment to better suit ourselves, instead of standing passively by. So if “nature” wants to kill our kids, ravage our less fortunate, and generally make us miserable and dead, “nature” can get stuffed, because damn it, we don’t have to just sit here and take it.

          • Monkey Professor for a Head
            September 15, 2016 at 11:52 pm #

            I’ll second that sentiment. Without modern medical treatment I would have spent my life deaf from chronic otitis media, and I would have died at age 30 from a PPH. If that’s natures way, then fuck nature.

          • September 16, 2016 at 10:44 am #

            Sorry, I missed Laura J’s comment. I mean, there’s kind of this REALLY BIG PUDDLE in the way. Not like we can improve on nature by laying down telephone cables or anything.

          • Monkey Professor for a Head
            September 15, 2016 at 11:48 pm #

            I’m sure that’s a great comfort to parents who have lost their children to vaccine preventable diseases.

          • Laura J
            September 16, 2016 at 6:11 am #

            so unfortunate. Life is pain.

          • Who?
            September 16, 2016 at 6:35 am #

            Perhaps. But fetishising and wallowing in other people’s isn’t decent.

          • Laura J
            September 16, 2016 at 7:00 am #

            That is life. You move on. You just do.

          • Who?
            September 16, 2016 at 7:20 am #

            Fetishising pain is ‘just life’? It’s just depraved.

            Suffering might well be inevitable. Wallowing in it is not.

          • Laura J
            September 16, 2016 at 7:21 am #

            Then you are stagnant.

          • Who?
            September 16, 2016 at 7:23 am #

            If you say so.

            Rather stagnant than putrefying.

            And make no mistake, wallow in others’ suffering is putrefaction.

          • Laura J
            September 16, 2016 at 7:47 am #


          • Who?
            September 16, 2016 at 7:59 am #

            What a vicious person you are. With all your little homely stories about the baby and the anniversary and the vege garden.

            Enjoying watching others suffer, secure that it can never happen to you.

            If you had a conscience, you’d be ashamed of yourself.

          • Linden
            September 16, 2016 at 7:02 am #

            Life is the pain of realizing that you could have saved your child if you’d not been so stupid?
            You’ll perhaps volunteer in helping depopulate the earth by moving to an area with no clean water and very little food, let alone vaccines? Didn’t think so. Death, pain is for *other* people. *Those* people.

          • Laura J
            September 16, 2016 at 7:11 am #

            Wouldn’t it be great if we had vaccines for everything?

          • Laura J
            September 16, 2016 at 7:54 am #

            Wouldn’t it be great if there were vaccines for everything?

          • Linden
            September 16, 2016 at 3:48 pm #

            Why not stop the suffering you can? A bit like trying to fix you real or imagined throid problem.

          • Laura J
            September 16, 2016 at 4:38 pm #

            you don’t make any sense. Word salad.

          • Linden
            September 17, 2016 at 4:22 pm #

            English is not my native language. I’m still a better communicator in English than you are. That is probably because I think before I write, rather than blather on trying to seem all philosophical and shit.

          • Laura J
            September 17, 2016 at 4:31 pm #

            you are not much better at it

          • Sonja Henie
            September 18, 2016 at 2:49 pm #

            You sure are!

          • Laura J
            September 16, 2016 at 7:01 am #

            Or other causes, such as not strapping them in a seatbelt.

          • Sue
            September 16, 2016 at 12:26 am #

            So ironic to be pontificating blithely about “nature” on the internet.

          • September 18, 2016 at 2:31 pm #

            I have no idea what you just said. Nature put a REALLY BIG BODY OF WATER in the way. Not like we can do anything about it like laying down telephone cables or anything.


          • Laura J
            September 19, 2016 at 5:51 am #

            Have a happy day. Love your family more.

          • Who?
            September 19, 2016 at 6:35 am #

            How extremely rude you are.

          • Laura J
            September 19, 2016 at 6:55 am #

            Must not Love your family more.

        • J.B.
          September 15, 2016 at 10:12 am #

          So are you volunteering to go back to when life was nasty, brutish and short? If you want to do that go live in the wilderness somewhere.

        • MB
          September 15, 2016 at 2:06 pm #

          I do not understand this strange desirous nature of people longing for barbary, suffering and anguish. I think that if you truly looked into the eyes of suffering, or held its weak and dying little hand in yours, or even felt it in your own brittle bones, I think that you would recant. Unfortunately, though, you are a slave to your ignorance.

          • Laura J
            September 15, 2016 at 2:11 pm #

            It’s nature. Oh yes, sadly.

          • MaineJen
            September 15, 2016 at 2:21 pm #

            I’m going to take a wild guess and say that you’ve never had to personally experience this “sad” facet of nature.

          • Laura J
            September 15, 2016 at 2:29 pm #

            you move on. you just do.

          • September 15, 2016 at 4:14 pm #

            From being culled? Only on a supernatural level….

          • Sonja Henie
            September 18, 2016 at 2:48 pm #

            Right, you move into the grave.

          • September 16, 2016 at 5:59 pm #

            Natural disasters are called that because a)they are NATURAL and b)they are DISASTERS. Embracing them just because they are natural makes no goddamn sense and the same goes for VPDs.

          • Laura J
            September 16, 2016 at 8:11 pm #

            Nature just is.

          • September 16, 2016 at 8:12 pm #

            Exactly the point. Earthquakes – a subset of natural disasters and therefore a subsubset of nature just are. We should still at least attempt to build quakeproof buildings.

          • Laura J
            September 16, 2016 at 8:16 pm #

            with what materials? japanese were doing well so far till they had the Tsunami.

          • September 16, 2016 at 8:26 pm #

            The fact that we can’t prevent the impact of all natural disasters is not a reason not to try to prevent some.

            You thwart nature every time you wash your hands.

          • Laura J
            September 16, 2016 at 8:49 pm #

            Agreed on that one.

          • Laura J
            September 16, 2016 at 9:00 pm #

            Any ideas how we can prevent some? We have a fault that goes through Atlanta and had some rumbles up north. Been in a 6.0 twenty years ago…over in Tahoe. Easier said than done to prevent natural disasters. From storms to tornadoes…you know what to do. But then a EF5 tornado comes through you have to be deep underground as the funnel is a mile wide..takes the town off the map. The efforts of man are good, build shelters, they save lives. The efforts of vaccines are good. They save lives.
            My daughter is very good at washing her hands, caught one cold so far during her first year of prek. We teach her to cough in her sleeve or such. We’re waiting for the day when we all get strep or such…lol.

          • September 16, 2016 at 9:08 pm #

            “Build shelters” as you said.

          • Laura J
            September 17, 2016 at 9:11 am #

            For which? Shelters for earthquakes so materials fall on them? Not a good idea. The best is to be outside during an earthquake and away from structures.

          • September 17, 2016 at 12:02 pm #

            Oh gee, that’s why I don’t think I know more than the sesimologists.

          • Laura J
            September 17, 2016 at 12:43 pm #


          • Sonja Henie
            September 18, 2016 at 2:47 pm #

            Right. Nature has no morals. Nature isn’t bad or good. Human beings have brains to try to mitigate some of Nature’s effects. People have ALWAYS tried to do so, going way back to the Neanderthals.

        • September 15, 2016 at 4:04 pm #

          That’s not what the article is saying.

          The article hypothesizes that increased numbers of humans will live closer to wildlife and domesticated animals and that that will be the largest pool of new viruses.

          What the article fails to note is that the majority of humans who die of diseases die don’t die of newly emerged diseases. The largest killers have been around for centuries like malaria, TB, and bacterial pneumonia.

          Your hypothesis also misses entire swaths of bacteria that live in the soil and can cause diseases regardless of population density – think tetanus. Your chances of contracting tetanus have zero response to population density of humans or animals and is entirely based on if the soil that contacts the body has tetanus and if the tetanus bacteria ends up in an anaerobic area of the body.

          If you don’t think tetanus was a major health concern, think about why anyone would willing accept a vaccine that can hurt like hell every 10 years – and why that vaccine was an actual priority.

          • Laura J
            September 15, 2016 at 8:17 pm #

            Yes there are bacteria that live in the soil, water and everything else. Bacteria also live in our bodies as well.

          • September 15, 2016 at 11:02 pm #

            Right. But most bacteria in water, in soil and in our bodies are not pathogens – they cannot use our cells as a form of food.

            There are some pathogenic bacteria that live in soil. The best-known one causes tetanus, but there are others as well like the ones that cause botulism and a host of ones that can cause skin infections.

            These bacteria often have scary mortality rates from infections; tetanus kills 13% of infected, non-immunized people who live in the US and seek advanced medical attention; the death rate is higher where medical resources are scarce.

            The problem with the idea that bacteria, viruses and fungal infections act as a population decreasing feedback loop is that there are so many deadly bacteria, viruses and fungal infections that are not dependent on the number of people living in an area or on the planet in total.

            The rate of tetanus infections is not related to the number of people on the Earth. Another way of looking at it is that your risk of getting tetanus is determined by how much soil containing tetanus you come in contact with and how good or bad your luck is when you come in contact with the bacteria. Having 10 billion people or 2 million on the planet doesn’t affect your chances at all of contracting tetanus.

            Similarly, we have some data from ancient human burials that TB has been around for a very, very long time and has been infecting and killing people when the total population of the Earth was less than 1 million people. Will the rate be higher with more people? That’s hard to tease out; higher densities of people do allow TB to spread more quickly, but we also have eliminated some of the fastest way to get TB by getting out of our milk supply. We have some testing methods to determine who has been exposed to TB and have an understanding of germ theory to use effective methods to treat patients while limiting the spread of the illness.

            This applies to newly appeared diseases as well. Ebola is scary – but it’s not very contagious since it only spreads through contact with body fluids. The rapid spread of Ebola often speaks more to the extremely limited medical and logistic resources in Western Africa than how it would behave in the US or Europe. Ditto for Lassa fever and a bazillion other newly emerged diseases.

            Did you know that bubonic plague is endemic in areas of the US West? A lot of small animals carry it here and a few people die of it every year after a camping or hiking trip. Why doesn’t it come roaring back as a plague? Well, when you have symptoms of the plague, doctors send you to a hospital with infectious disease experts. Those doctors work to treat you will also make sure that you didn’t spread the plague to family members by treating people with antibiotics and making sure you don’t spread it to staff members by imposing strict precautions. Truly, these efforts and resources are the main reason diseases do not act as roaring epidemics anymore in the US and Europe.

          • Laura J
            September 16, 2016 at 7:20 am #

            A great description. Thank you. Bubonic plague, in areas of Colorado. Not to be confused with the hantavirus. Ebola is a horrible scary disease. One of my readings of it a year back was that people with O type blood had no immunities against it. I’ll have to find that again, but something to ponder. Then there are some that have antibodies against it, not very many though.
            My mom is positive for TB, but no symptoms since….1950. Could be she has an immunity against it, or it’s dormant. The Zika virus, origin of a monkey in Africa. That is equally disturbing.
            When I think of a predator, it’s looking for food to eat. Unless a virus & a bacteria can program its host so it can transmit to another body… this is deep, but very interesting.

            Thank you. It’s our anniversary today, so I may not get to everyone till later. Have a great Friday!

    • corblimeybot
      September 14, 2016 at 8:30 pm #

      That’s the Gaia thing again.

      • September 15, 2016 at 4:07 pm #

        Gaia is a bitch.

        We had a calf born yesterday who is probably not going to survive to adulthood. She was born at full-term on a cow who got pregnant on her first AI service after a waiting period after calving (e.g., we know the date of conception within a day ) and is about 30 pounds underweight. (That’s the equivalent of a 4 pound full-term human baby.) She has an underdeveloped eye on one side.

        She’s on her feet, eating successfully and behaving normally without signs of pain or discomfort – but we’re braced ourselves to have her crash and die at any point or being ready to euthanize her if she appears to be in pain.

        We sent a note into the AI sire’s company just in case there’s something in the bull’s DNA, but we suspect that she might have had a developmental mistake.

        Gaia is a bitch.

        • Charybdis
          September 15, 2016 at 4:09 pm #

          Aww, poor baby. And calves are so cute, too. IUGR in cows?

        • The Bofa on the Sofa
          September 15, 2016 at 4:10 pm #

          I don’t think Gaia is a bitch. I just think she is fair to everyone and everything, including physics and chemistry, and does not play favorites to humans (or cows).

          Sorry, little one, we won’t suspend biochemistry just for you.

          • September 15, 2016 at 4:15 pm #

            I mean it more as a counter-weight to the idea of the nurturing Earth-Mother.

            Nature is very, very fair and unbiased.

          • The Bofa on the Sofa
            September 15, 2016 at 4:17 pm #

            I say the same thing about Mother Nature. Mother Nature is not a bitch, she is just ultimately fair and not biased toward humans.

        • Laura J
          September 15, 2016 at 9:20 pm #

          I love cows…I hope the calf will be ok. Didn’t know you had a farm.

      • kfunk937
        September 16, 2016 at 4:26 pm #

        Sorry to have duplicated your comment, which somehow I overlooked. That was also my first thought.

        New Age poppycock.

    • Nick Sanders
      September 14, 2016 at 9:50 pm #

      Sorry, I already have a religion, I’m not interested in a new one.

    • Irène Delse
      September 15, 2016 at 3:13 am #

      Please, stop using “theory” to mean metaphor or simile. Words have meaning.

    • Maud Pie
      September 15, 2016 at 7:16 am #

      So why treat any disease at all? The unstated corollary of your assertion (I won’t dignify it by calling it a theory) is that we should just chill and let nature do its thing as it bumps off the surplus population. Why wait for the population to get too big? Why not just accept that bouts of influenza and meningitis keep the population at acceptable levels?

      Oh, did you mean disease performs this valuable culling function when it offs another family, or another village, or another nation? I get it. That makes sense in its own sick way.

      • Laura J
        September 15, 2016 at 5:29 pm #

        I’ll get to you all after dinner folks. Until then..

    • Heidi
      September 15, 2016 at 10:00 am #

      Except disease doesn’t tend to ravage people who are actually using the most resources. It hits the impoverished who don’t have access to clean water and a reliable, steady source of food.

    • Michael McCarthy
      September 15, 2016 at 8:59 pm #

      “and predators usually have eyes in the front, not to the side”
      Well, no. It is very dependent on the environment and prey. Most predatory fish have eyes on the side of their head, as do the Cetaceans. A number of amphibians fall somewhere in between. Many reptiles are on the side of the head. If you had limited your predators to birds and mammals, you would have been more correct.

    • Sue
      September 16, 2016 at 12:23 am #

      The Earth is a planet, composed of observable and measurable structure – it is not a sentient being. There is no evidence at all to support the contention that “When a species gets to (sic) great, then disease is inevitable to pick them off.”

      Sorry – it just does not work that way.

      • Laura J
        September 16, 2016 at 6:10 am #

        Right. Made of elements. Carbon, Oxygen etc. Solid rock to liquid molten center. Survival of the fittest. The analogy portrays that in a species, there is vulnerability as in example of the girl being hit by a tree, as a metaphor of being a pathogen.

        • Monkey Professor for a Head
          September 16, 2016 at 4:54 pm #

          I don’t think you understood the article at all. The girl being hit by a fence post (not a tree) is a metaphor for a rare vaccine reaction.

          The rest of your post is word salad.

          • Laura J
            September 16, 2016 at 5:14 pm #

            vulnerability to infection. duh.

          • Monkey Professor for a Head
            September 16, 2016 at 5:55 pm #

            You need to reread the article or rephrase what you’re trying to say, because your post makes no sense.

          • Chi
            September 17, 2016 at 12:06 am #

            OMG you need to learn some SERIOUS reading comprehension skills. But here’s the cliff-notes version for you because I’m bored.

            In this analogy:

            Wild animals (Lions, tigers, elephants etc) = Deadly diseases.

            Spears and weapons = medicines like antibiotics (or at least that’s my interpretation. Antibiotics can save those who get secondary infections from diseases but aren’t perfect)

            Giant fence around the village = vaccinations.

            Then a girl is killed/injured by a falling fence timber = vaccine reaction. Which, in this analogy is still less likely to happen than being eaten by a wild animal.

            Villagers who argue the fence is no longer necessary = Anti-vaxxers.

            They then leave holes in the fence = waning herd immunity and villagers are once again prey to the wild animals that take advantage of the holes they left in the fence.

            Because those villagers haven’t witnessed an attack by the deadly animals, they feel that the fence is no longer necessary and over-exaggerate the likelihood and danger of a child getting injured by a falling fence timber. Just like anti-vaxxers tend to over-exaggerate the occurrence of vaccine injuries, ignoring the fact that if these diseases were allowed to return they would do far more damage and kill far more children than vaccines ever have.

            Do you get it now? Or are you going to stick your fingers in your ears and pretend you don’t?

          • Laura J
            September 17, 2016 at 9:11 am #

            That is your interpretation.

          • Wren
            September 17, 2016 at 9:43 am #

            Do you disagree with that interpretation?

            You do know that the author of the analogy is the author of this blog, so you could easily check on the intended meaning, right?

          • Laura J
            September 17, 2016 at 10:02 am #

            interpretations differ. I don’t disagree at all :). I enjoyed her article.

          • Wren
            September 17, 2016 at 10:29 am #

            What on earth does that mean?

            Interpretations of some things may differ. In this case, it was very clear.

          • Chi
            September 17, 2016 at 6:45 pm #

            Ah I see you’re opting for the sticking your fingers in your ears and ignoring what you don’t like.

            So mature.

          • Laura J
            September 17, 2016 at 7:11 pm #

            Ah great, you first then.

          • Nick Sanders
            September 17, 2016 at 7:29 pm #

            Chi first what?

          • Chi
            September 17, 2016 at 7:35 pm #

            That comment made literally no sense. But then with your level of reading comprehension I’m not overly surprised.

            I’m not sticking my fingers in my ears and ignoring anything. You are the one parading their ignorance for all to see. Since you cannot seem to refute anything that anyone has said to you.

          • Laura J
            September 17, 2016 at 8:03 pm #

            Nos da (in welsh)

          • Michael McCarthy
            September 17, 2016 at 3:53 pm #

            “Do you get it now? Or are you going to stick your fingers in your ears and pretend you don’t?”
            So sad that she chose the latter.

      • Laura J
        September 16, 2016 at 7:12 am #

        Densities in populations aren’t a trigger for bacteria & viruses to have an opportunity? Isn’t that nature?

    • Steph858
      September 21, 2016 at 5:32 pm #

      Laura J: Diseases are Nature’s way of dealing with overpopulation; preventing deaths by vaccinating now will just lead to more deaths by famine, drought, etc down the line; something something Reverend Malthus.

      Wooist Consensus: Vaccines contain ingredients which can cause sterility; Bill Gates even admitted that vaccination programmes will reduce the world’s population!

      I’d pay good money for tickets to a ringside seat at THAT debate!

      • Laura J
        September 21, 2016 at 7:39 pm #

        Praise God…you are RIGHT!

  6. fiftyfifty1
    September 14, 2016 at 7:43 pm #

    OT: Hillary Clinton is on Armor Thyroid. Sigh. Bullshit alternative health is everywhere, I guess.

    • Laura J
      September 14, 2016 at 8:10 pm #

      Good stuff. Been on it for 6 years.

      • fiftyfifty1
        September 14, 2016 at 8:51 pm #

        The endocrinologists around here typically refuse to prescribe it because of safety issues. The only ones who will prescribe it are the alternative medicine type.

        • Laura J
          September 14, 2016 at 8:54 pm #

          I take both, levo & armour. I go to a regular dr that checks both TSH, T3 & T4, & antibodies.

          • Who?
            September 15, 2016 at 3:54 am #

            So why do both?

            If the snakeoil is so awesome, why get a real checkup, and if you’re confident about the value of the real checkup, why take the snakeoil, which isn’t necessarily what it claims on the label to be, nor is it necessarily the same from batch to batch.

          • Laura J
            September 15, 2016 at 6:23 am #

            a lot of people do that, t4 & t3.

          • Who?
            September 15, 2016 at 7:11 am #

            Yes but why?

            Because you like paying for two lots of something, thinking you’re getting some kind of double benefit? It seems like you don’t have any real confidence in either, and somehow think a bit of both will be good.

            Because you like running with the fox and hunting with the hounds?

            I’m not snarking, I’m honestly interested.

            And there’s a follow up-have you ever gone to an alt-med person and left with a totally clean bill of health and nothing to buy? People whinge all the time when the doctor won’t give them the drugs-you never hear that from alt med clients.

          • Laura J
            September 15, 2016 at 7:32 am #

            Thanks. Well it seems logical that the thyroid makes T4 & T3. I never felt better, and hypothyroid issues have a large range of issues. A lot of drs in our area specializes in conventional & integration (alternative methods). It’s a big change and didn’t realize I felt so bad before I started them. So far levels are normal. I wasn’t depressed, but that’s a symptom of hypo, and low energy, concentration difficulty etc…

            Going to alt med person, my pediatrician was integrated so yes I never had to buy anything from him when I was a teen. His method was if you didn’t have to come back he did his job. As more physicians are open to new trends with an open mind to help their patients, as not everything works for everyone.

          • The Bofa on the Sofa
            September 15, 2016 at 2:33 pm #

            Well it seems logical that the thyroid makes T4 & T3.

            You are going to have to explain it. In what respect does it “seem logical”?

            BTW, who are you take thyroid medication? You think you are better than nature?

          • September 16, 2016 at 8:07 pm #

            But surely nature has a reason for your thyroid having issues!

          • Laura J
            September 17, 2016 at 3:41 pm #

            Being borderline hypo has its moments. It seems to have a correlation to type 2, strange enough, but that has yet to be determined in the future.
            Hope you are enjoying this day wherever you are. Getting back to work tonight working on book 2 after some serious gardening, hope some of our wilted romaines will spring back to crispness after transferring them. Have a happy day 🙂

          • September 17, 2016 at 4:25 pm #

            Not the point.

          • Laura J
            September 17, 2016 at 4:25 pm #

            Have a happy day!

          • Linden
            September 16, 2016 at 7:09 am #

            Why are you denying Nature the opportunity to cull you by messing up your thyroid and your antibodies? What is all this doctor nonsense? So unnatural! Why don’t you realize you’re so much less significant than Mother Nature, and should just lie down and accept whatever health problem you have?
            I guess consistency is hard, right?

          • Laura J
            September 16, 2016 at 7:48 am #

            Conventional Dr. Hello! Guess you don’t have to take a pill.

          • Linden
            September 16, 2016 at 3:55 pm #

            I do take a pill, to avoid getting pregnant. I stopped taking it when I wanted to get pregnant. Now I am taking it again, because I had my baby and don’t want another at this time. Amazing, isn’t it, that unlike my grandmother who lost 7 of her 11 children, I can control stuff and don’t have to live with unimaginable grief?
            Oh, and my baby is getting his vaccinations, because I care about him and I’m not a fatalistic nihilist who’s happy to see unfortunate people perish.

          • Linden
            September 16, 2016 at 3:59 pm #

            You also haven’t explained why you’re not accepting your eventual culling by nature like a good little fatalistic nihilist. Why aren’t you stoically embracing your suffering? Why are you even trying to prevent death when you are so insignificant compared to nature?

          • Laura J
            September 16, 2016 at 4:38 pm #

            Great! Wouldn’t be nice to have vaccines for everything? Never took a birth control pill. Had my kids without medical interventions. Families had lots of kids back then, the so called nuclear family.

          • momofone
            September 16, 2016 at 3:10 pm #

            The culling is just for other people–you know, the ones who *should* be culled.

          • Linden
            September 16, 2016 at 4:06 pm #

            Would they happen to live in poorer countries and not look like lauraj? Would they happen to make the clothes on her back and grow food she eats? Or perhaps they happen to inhabit the same country but are obviously undeserving, having unequal access to health care and good food and a good living environment?

    • Roadstergal
      September 15, 2016 at 3:11 pm #

      Bleh, I hate alt-med in politics. The only positive thing I’ll say about it is that the Clintons seem to keep it more to themselves than any of the other candidates…

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