We do not live during the Dark Ages

As I listen to “naysayers” of modern vaccines and health care guidelines, I’m reminded of the Dark Ages when there was limited knowledge of medicine and science.

An essay on the MET Museum website has some stark descriptions.

During the Dark Ages [after the Fall of Roman Empire in 500 A.D. and through Middle Ages to 1500 when science and culture blossomed during the Renaissance] The Black Death, leprosy, and St. Anthony’s fire or ergotism--caused by a fungus growing in contaminated Rye bread—”ravaged Europe” and did not spare royalty or serf landowners, alike. Ergotism caused arms, legs, feet, hands to burn like they were on fire. Eventually, the appendages would become gangrenous and fall off. (National Institutes of Health)

The author goes on to say that these epidemics spread at a frightening rate. “Pneumonic plague attacked the lungs and bubonic plague produced the characteristic buboes [inflamed lymph nodes under arms and groin]; there was no cure for either form.”

According to the essay’s author, “prayer or pilgrimage” was the only hope. “While leprosy was very disfiguring and therefore sufferers were feared and kept apart, in fact, leprosy has a very slow incubation period and may not have been as contagious as it was believed. Lepers were obliged to live outside a town or village and to carry a bell to warn people of their approach. Many medieval parish churches in England have leper “squints” that allowed a leper to see the Mass and even receive the sacrament without coming into contact with other parishioners.”

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) reports, “Plague is infamous for killing millions of people in Europe during the Middle Ages. Today, modern antibiotics are effective in treating the plague. Without prompt treatment, the disease can cause serious illness or death.”

In addition, Leprosy can be cured: “Hansen’s disease (also known as leprosy) is an infection caused by slow-growing bacteria called Mycobacterium leprae. It can affect the nerves, skin, eyes, and lining of the nose (nasal mucosa). With early diagnosis and treatment, the disease can be cured, (CDC).

We live in a time when we do have specialists who spend their lives learning, practicing scientific research, and publishing the data about medical cures, vaccines, and treatments.  Who are we to act like we know as much as they do, with our limited high school or GED education, or even a Bachelor’s or Master’s Degree? Just as we rely on automotive experts, architects, meteorologists, agriculturalists, dentists, internists, radiologists, astrophysicists, rocket scientists, we must also rely on the work of our medical leaders who care about all of us and recognize that modern-day medicine like the three covid vaccines approved for emergency use can prevent us from succumbing and dying as we fight the more virulent Delta variant. Why would anyone choose to fight this without the power of modern-day medicine and science, i.e. the vaccine?

In last week’s column, I quoted Dr. Paul Offit: “We don’t die from smallpox anymore. Children aren’t permanently paralyzed by polio anymore in the United States. It’s a good thing. That’s because God gave us a brain to think and reason with. So, use it.”