Always look on the bright side of (the black) death…

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Personally I’ve always been quite partial to those beak masks worn by plague doctors. I thought they were quite stylish.

Plague doctors wore a mask with a bird-like beak to protect them from being infected by the disease, which they believed was airborne. In fact, they thought disease was spread by miasma, a noxious form of ‘bad air.’ To battle this imaginary threat, the long beak was packed with sweet smells, such as dried flowers, herbs and spices.

The modern surgical mask worn en masse on Japanese subways (for example) is infinitely less cool. When the time comes I’m opting for a more traditional look.

Oh… and apparently the time might actually be coming. Since… well… human beings continue to grind out the miles on their death march.

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Although having now read a little about this (on the internet, so standard disclaimers apply), this seems more like a good news/bad news kinda gig. The good news is that not all pathogens could survive being frozen and then reheated as the permafrost thaws.

Bad news is anthrax definitely can.

In fact in 2016 in Siberia, a twelve year old boy died and at least 20 people were hospitalized after being infected with anthrax.  The theory is that seventy five years ago there was a massive outbreak of anthrax among the local reindeer population and that one of these reindeer died, was covered in snow and muddy slush and remained intact in the frozen soil until a heat wave in 2016 exposed the carcass again as the permafrost thawed.

We’re not sure about a whole bunch of other pathogens.

Spanish flu RNA was found in the frozen tundra of Alaska. Small pox and bubonic plague also in Siberia. Scientists are not entirely sure if those can come back from the dead just yet.

Apparently the problem is that permafrost is, as you might imagine, layered. The more melting, the more older… and more deadly stuff could be uncovered further down. The newer stuff… while deadly, we might have some immunity or resistance going on… maybe. But the older stuff… *cue scary music*…

NASA scientists successfully revived bacteria that had been encased in a frozen pond in Alaska for 32,000 years. The microbes, called Carnobacterium pleistocenium, had been frozen since the Pleistocene period, when woolly mammoths still roamed the Earth. Once the ice melted, they began swimming around, seemingly unaffected.

To quote evolutionary biologists Jean-Michel Claverie

“Following our work and that of others, there is now a non-zero probability that pathogenic microbes could be revived, and infect us,” says Claverie. “How likely that is is not known, but it’s a possibility. It could be bacteria that are curable with antibiotics, or resistant bacteria, or a virus. If the pathogen hasn’t been in contact with humans for a long time, then our immune system would not be prepared. So yes, that could be dangerous.”

Scientists, ha ha, with their non-zero probability. Totally adding that to my daily vernacular.

4 thoughts on “Always look on the bright side of (the black) death…

    1. Likely a useful amenity offering both the opportunity for utility and roleplaying opportunities, should the need to play doctor ever arise. Personally I would hang on to it! Although less utilitarian than handcuffs I imagine.

      Liked by 1 person

    1. I know, since it’s decided to change its vocation to something less impermeable I feel it is our sacred duty to write to whoever is in charge and have them change its designation to something more descriptively accurate!

      Liked by 1 person

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