OVER the weekend, I received a text message from my daughter Trisha advising that she would not be able to attend our regular Sunday family lunch. One of latest coronavirus cases reportedly is a resident of the condominium where she and my son-in-law Joy are staying. For this reason, Trisha has decided to isolate herself as much as practicable for an unspecified period.
Knowing her to be a book lover, I can imagine Trisha voraciously going through volumes which she probably missed in the past. She recently posted, in her Facebook account, a list of “must- read” titles dealing with the hottest topic of the season - epidemics. Here are some of them:
The Plague by Albert Camus (1947) – Alludes to a cholera epidemic in Algeria in 1849. Book reviewer Ed Vulliamy contends it can also be read as a metaphor for the horrors of fascism.
“Pale Horse, Pale Rider” by Katherine Anne Porter (1939) – Set around the Spanish flu pandemic in 1918 and focuses on a young woman falling in love with a soldier, as both influenza and World War I loom ominously.
“A Journal of the Plague Year” by Daniel Defoe (1722) – A poignant account of the effects of the bubonic plague which devastated London from 1665 to 1666. Defoe writes about families forced into quarantine due to an infected family member.
I found very intriguing two items related to coronavirus which recently went viral. (no pun intended). The first refers to the prediction of the late Sylvia Celeste Browne, an American author who claimed to be a medium with psychic abilities. She used to appear in U.S. TV talk shows. In her book “End of Days: Predictions and Prophecies about the End of the World”, (published 2008) Browne predicted: “In around 2020 a severe pneumonia-like illness will spread throughout the globe, attacking the lungs and the bronchial tubes and resisting all known treatments. Almost more baffling than the illness itself will be the fact that it will suddenly vanish as quickly as it has arrived, attack again 10 years later, and then disappear completely.”
In the second instance, author Dean Koontz wrote in his book “The Eye of Darkness,” (published in 1981): “….(I)t was around then that a Chinese scientist named Li Chen defected to the United States, carrying a diskette record of China’s most important and dangerous new biological weapon in a decade. They call the stuff “Wuhan-400” because it was developed at their RDNA labs outside the city of Wuhan, and it was the four-hundredth viable strain of man-made microorganisms created at that research center. “Wuhan-400” is a perfect weapon. It afflicts only human beings. No other living creature can carry it. And like syphilis, Wuhan-400 can’t survive outside a living human body for longer than a minute, which means it can’t permanently contaminate objects or entire places the way anthrax and other virulent microorganisms can. And when the host expires, the Wuhan-400 within him perishes a short while later, as soon as the temperature of the corpse drops below eighty-six degrees Fahrenheit.”
Browne had been the subject of negative publicity because of several prophesies which turned out to be false. Despite that, Browne maintained a considerable following until her death in 2013. In the case of Koontz, observers point out that except for its name, Wuhan-400, which was designed as a weapon, bears little resemblance to coronavirus.
Aside from coronavirus, another major pandemic originated from China. Described as the “Third Pandemic” in a report written by Josh Sanburn for Time Magazine (October 2010) , the pandemic erupted in 1855 in the Chinese province of Yunnan. The disease was borne by infected rats and spread to all six inhabited continents. Hardest hit were China and India. Across a hundred years, an estimated 15 million died before it was controlled in the 1950s.
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