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I’ve been reading Coal: A Human History by Barbara Freese. It’s a fascinating history of how humans have come to use and rely on the power generated by burning coal. It’s got a bit of an environmentalist bent to it, but I’d highly recommend it!

In my reading, Ms. Freese mentioned something about a ‘killer fog’ event in London during December of 1873. While trying to find information on this event, which is hard, I found something else:

The Killer Fog of ’52

No, I’m not talking about The Fog or its crappy remake!

Between Dec. 5-9th 1952, London was trapped in a fog (or smog, if you will) of epic proportions. Trapped by the inversion layer formed by the dense mass of cold air, the already horrible air pollution became toxic and killed as many as 12,000 people in London.

“The lips of the dying were blue. Heavy smoking and chronic exposure to pollution had already weakened the lungs of those who fell ill during the smog. Particulates and acids in the killer brew finished the job by triggering massive inflammations. In essence, the dead had suffocated.” — NPR: The Great Fog of ’52

Accounts of survivors in a BBC article

A bit more reading from the Met Office file on the Fog of ’52

Fifty years later, people don’t talk much about this event. It’s become a blot in the pages of history. But its impact changed the way people saw the environment and how mankind has polluted it.

Although steps were taken to clean the air in London (and the Earth as a whole, with the Kyoto Protocol) some 20,000 in England alone suffer shortened lives each year do to air pollution.

Just imagine if this happened in Los Angeles. Or New York City. Or Chicago.

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As I mentioned in my previous post Solidarity or Statement?, Trent Reznor was shown in the latest video for Nine Inch Nails’ newest single Survivialism wearing what is traditionally called a keffiyeh.

Due to the nature of the video being shot in black and white, you can’t honestly tell if the scarf is really black and white, or what.

Trent in Europe Of course, give it time and a picture will show up.

There you have it. It’s actually a khaki-brown colour with the black design.

Trent’s a sneaky devil.

Since the release of Nine Inch Nails’ Survivalism video, everyone’s probably noticed the scarf Trent’s wearing.

It is a Keffiyeh.

For those not familar, it is a traditional headdress worn by Arab men.

Due to the nature of the video, I can’t tell if there are colours to it, but it seems to be a black and white keffiyeh, which is common to the Levant, aka Israel, Jordan, Lebanon, Syria and the Palestinian territories.

In other ways, the colours mean something else. The black-and-white is often associated with Fatah. The red-and-white keffiyeh is often associated with Hamas. Did Trent know that?

The thing about this, and we all know Trent Reznor is quite big on political statements lately, especially anti-Bush/anti-war as of late, is the use of this keffiyeh. See, the Urban Outfitters chain was selling keffiyeh scarves, labeling them “anti-war woven scarves”. This blog entry at KABOBfest documented the “craze”, showing American teens and trendsetters wearing the “anti-war scarves”, showing “support and solidarity to Palestine”.

Honestly, I don’t really think any single person who purchased one had any damn idea what it was/represents.

Eventually, the outcry grew loud and Urban Outfitters stopped selling them, saying (quote) “Due to the sensitive nature of this item, we will no longer offer it for sale. We apologize if we offended anyone, this was by no means our intention.”

Morons. This isn’t the first time Urban Outfitters done something idiotic.

This store sells keffiyeh with the statment: “Now, however, it has come to symbolize the Palestinian (and Iraqi) resistance to occupation and injustice, and is worn by men and women worldwide as an expression of solidarity.”

This particular article tells of a student who was dared to wear a keffiyeh through US Customs on his return from Israel.

If we take all this into context, obviously Trent was making a statement. At the end of the Survivalism video, a body with a keffiyeh is dragged around a corner, leaving a trail of blood on the floor.

Whether that was just part of his Year Zero alternative-reality game, or a statement of his views on the War On Terror/Middle East conflict remains to be seen.

Contrary to what someone might think, I haven’t forgotten this blog.

No, it is Winter here in Oregon and my yearly depression had set in full-force. Granted this usually lasts until March or April, only to knock me on my ass around my birthday in May, then disappears into the Summer “I hate the HOT!” Blahs.

I swear to God, one time my doctor told me I would wake up one day and never not be depressed again. I think he was right.

I will not start singing “Hello darkness, my old friend”, as that is lame.

Instead I will say I honestly don’t know what to write in here. Yes, the medical articles I’ve written are extremely popular with Google searches and have brought me far more traffic than I ever expected to this lowly blog. But those are hard to do. A lot of the science I find interesting doesn’t really make for a joking atmosphere. I’ve tried to write an entry on the Spanish Flu Pandemic of 1918-1919 but it’s not a fun topic.

Instead I’ve contented myself with watching Discovery Health on TLC and learning about really fucked up diseases and conditions that I want to write about but have to broach with kid gloves because they are really hard to take.

Perhaps inspiration will strike. I guess I could talk about Costocondritis. I bet no one here has heard of that.

K-I-S-S-I-N-G is Contagious to Your Health!

So. It’s 2007. I’ve had this blog for a week or so now… and I’ve noticed something. The most hits I’m getting are on the Plagues, Pestilences, and Other Plights columns I did for Inside Pulse in 2005.

I must admit, I did have a lot of fun doing those. Granted, it was short-lived (less then five months, tops) and I rarely got feedback that people were reading. With WordPress, I can tell people are actually showing up!

And they’re reading mainly my articles Bring On the Clorox! (all about diseases you can catch via improperly washed towels!) and The Little Mermaid Syndrome (which is about Sirenomelia and everyone seems to be looking for Tiffany Yorks! Thank you Tiffany!) but today Plagues At the Movies! took a surge in readership.

I dunno what that says about me. Of course I am the girl who wrote a paper on Hantavirus Pulmonary Syndrome in order to graduate high school, even going so far to contact the medical authorities in New Mexico for information. (They were extremely helpful! Thank you!) I read medical books for fun; not the text books, mind you (damn, they’re expensive!) but books on plagues and medical disastors and historical texts about dramatic medical events in world history.

And I wonder why I can’t get a date?

Since, from the stats, the anecdotes I write about my life are just not garnering me the attention I demand need… I’ll delve back into a subject I totally dig!

The folks over at WrongDiagnosis.com have a wealth of information for you to peruse at your leisure. In fact, they helped me with many a column back in the day. Being as they were the inspiration for Bring On the Clorox! I decided to head back and see what might spark my interest for today’s topic.

Boy howdy, they haven’t failed me yet!

Did you know you can possibly catch at least five diseases from kissing?

And I’m not talking your saliva here! (Saliva you can catch at least thirteen, and that’s only including one of the ones on the kissing list!)

Let us review!

Cytomegalovirus
With such a big name, you think it’s deadly. And yeah, it is to your sex life. Cytomegalovirus is basically Herpes. A very rare form, as classified by the Office of Rare Diseases (ORD) of the National Institutes of Health (NIH). Cytomegalovirus affects less than 200,000 people in the US. (Apparently the rest of the world is anyone’s guess?)

Also known as Human herpesvirus 5 (HHV-5), Cytomegalovirus belongs to the Betaherpesvirinae subfamily of Herpesviridae. It also has one of the most stunning name meanings I’ve ever come across! Cytomegalovirus means “cell very big virus”. God, that is so deep and astute. I’m totally astounded by that definition!

Moving on. CMV (because I’m tired of typing that word) is incurable. Pretty much the standard for any virus in the Herpes family. CMV attacks the salivary glands, liver, spleen, lungs, eyes, and other organs. Once these are infected, CMV causes production of characteristically enlarged cells with intranuclear inclusions. It is also known to cause birth defects.

There can be no symptoms with CMV. Or you might feel fatigue, fever or flu-like symptoms; Lymph glands may swell or you might develop a rash.. CMV also might be discovered if you have Hepatitis, Pneumonitis, Retinitis or a Mononucleosis-like illness.

Downside, just like the fact CMV is incurable, is the fact there are no treatments. It can go dormant for periods of time but return when it damn well feels like it.

Genital warts
Aww, jeez, if you can’t figure this one out, I can’t help you.

The simple explination is they’re warts. In the genital reigon. A recognized sign of Human Papillomavirus (HPV); doesn’t mean that you have warts when you have HPV, though. Some people never show signs.

There are various methods of treatment. None of them are permanent or cures. Warts can be treated with topical creams and ointments, or some choose to have them burned and/or frozen off. (Ouch.) Or even better, lazer or surgical removal!

Gonorrhea
Seeing as I’ve already covered Neisseria gonorrhoeae before… It’s a sexually transmitted disease. If you paid attention in health class (or in sex ed, but who does during that?) you’d know “The Clap” is curable. Painful, especially since the bacteria can wreck havoc in the mouth, genital tract, and rectum. Doubly worse for a woman, who can end up with Pelvic Inflammatory Disease (PID), infertility, or an ectopic pregnancy.

Once again, the list of 41 symptoms of Gonorrhea for those of you not paying attention last time I went over this! Treatment is still the same; a single strong dose of Ceftriaxone, Cefixime, Ciprofloxacin, or Ofloxacin.

Hepatitis C
The disease with Pamela Anderson as its poster girl is listed as something you can contract from kissing. Hepatitis C (HCV) is a blood-borne virus, transmitted through blood-to-blood contact. Now, I’m guessing this involves kissing someone with a bleeding cut or open wound… which I’m sure there are people with that fetish out there. Otherwise, why this was listed in the “contagious from kissing diseases” section is really beyond me.

There isn’t a cure for HCV but there are hundreds of clinical studies looking for one. The symptoms of HCV do not always lead you to believe you are infected. Tests can confirm it. HCV, the third of the six Hepatitis viruses, can cause liver inflammation that is mostly asymptomatic. Chronic hepatits can result in liver cirrhosis and cancer. HCV is pretty much the largest cause of liver transplants.

HIV
I’m guessing what applies to HCV applies to the Human Immunodeficiency Virus (HIV). Being as this virus is transmitted through direct contact of a mucous membrane or the bloodstream with a bodily fluid containing HIV, using your mouth on other things in a “kissing” fashion (god, this is murder trying to phrase this and not get slapped with a mature content warning) is a dangerous idea with someone who is infected with HIV and/or AIDS.

Granted, you’re not likely to transmit HIV through saliva. While there are trace amounts of virus in the saliva, tears, and urine of someone who has HIV/AIDS, the concentration is negligible compared to blood, semen, vaginal fluid, preseminal fluid, or breast milk. You’d have to drink a gallon or more of an infected person’s saliva to even run an actual risk of being infected. Please do not attempt this!

The signs and symptoms of possible HIV/AIDS infection do not mean a death sentance. Advancement in treatments and clinical trials are prolonging lives and continuing the search for a cure.

ADDED BONUS FEATURE
Since I mentioned the 13 contagious transmissions from saliva, I thought I’d throw in one of them for fun!

Cold Sores
Everyone knows about these painful red blisters that show up at the most inappropriate times ever! Always on the around the mouth and nose, on the lips, and (believe me, my mother’s living proof of this) sometimes inside the nose, cold sores are caused by the Herpes Simplex Virus Type 1 (HSV-1).

There is no complete all out cure for cold sores; this is a form of Herpes and there’s certainly no cure for that! There are topical medications to treat the cold sore and spead the healing. Just remember, don’t put your mouth on someone when you have a cold sore, or share drinking cups or anything else that could result in facial contact with the disease. Cold sores are indeed contagious!

So, there you have it. Six different reasons you shouldn’t put your mouth on other people. In any way, shape or form. Bet you’re all regretting that kiss at midnight on New Year’s Eve now!

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