This is the time of year that we all cherish and simply delight in the renewal of life and the joys of spring. There is something about green grass, flowers, and budding of the trees and shrubs that inspires. I love everything about spring, the smell in the air, the birds, the sounds of children playing, and sitting on dry grass for the first time! Socially distanced and with a mask.
There is good news and not so good news these days.
We are rounding the corner towards a new era in human history. The good news. We are privileged to have the vaccine for COVID-19 and I and all of Michigan Medicine are recommending that you and your family be vaccinated as soon as you can. The state of Michigan just announced the vaccine is available to all those 16 years and older. Getting everyone vaccinated is our number 1 priority.
The not so good news is that Michigan is experiencing a surge in Covid-19 cases. It is affecting younger people. For many it is mild, but for others it can be bad.
Why is there a surge now? The virus is doing what viruses do, they are opportunists and find new customers and settle in. They survive by changing gears, we call this a ‘new variant’. It works very well for viruses. Not so good for us.
The world has been constantly shaped by pandemics. I have become a lightweight armchair scholar of pandemics through reading several informative books this past year. I learned from Pox Americana how smallpox had a major effect on the military strategies in the American revolution. Katherine Anne Porter’s intimate account of the 1918 influenza pandemic in her novel Pale Horse Pale Rider is gripping account of the intersection of culture and personal experience in this era. Porter herself nearly died from influenza in 1918; she published the story 20 years later. I read it twice.
John Barry’s account in his book, The Great Influenza, provides fascinating insights into the forces driving science and medicine in era of the devastating influenza pandemic of 1918, how it subsequently shaped and energized the scientists and philanthropists at the time and beyond. A core of incredible researchers began the quest of understanding viruses and their interactions with human biology. Barry connects the persistence and insights of the early 20th century virologists with the discovery of DNA and function of the human genome. A testimony of innovation. We are where we are today because of so many scientists, science teachers, and supporters of science.
Despite the Michigan surge in Covid-19, there is every reason to be optimistic! Vaccines are available to those over 16 in Michigan. Getting vaccinated is a priority like never before.
We have learned about “mRNA”, the basis for two of the vaccines in use. The ‘m’ is for messenger and refers to the function of the molecule – carrying forth the message embedded in the molecule. Think of it as a telegram from the ‘outside world of science’ to the internal workings of the body, the message is “please make antibody to the virus that causes COVID-19”.
The renewal of spring is upon us. Distancing and masks will prevent the spread of new variants and turn spring into summer for everyone!
Be Well, Be Safe, Be Vaccinated!
Dr. McInnis is the Principal Investigator and Scientific Director, Prechter Bipolar Research Program;
Thomas B. and Nancy Upjohn Woodworth Professor of Bipolar Disorder and Depression;
Professor of Psychiatry;Associate Director, University of Michigan Frances and Kenneth Eisenberg and Family Depression Center