H1N1,HIV, SARS, MERS, Ebola, Zika, Noroviruses: What is next?!

Warning: Do not read, if you are very sensitive or a worrier.


Microbial world have dominated the earth for billions of years and gradually evolved to all forms of life as we know it, including plants, animals and us, humans. If the microbial longevity on earth is a book of 1000 pages, the human’s life history on earth is less than a line of it! Microbes of all types, from bacteria, to fungus, to parasites and viruses have survived through infestation of their hosts, including humans for billions of years, and we just came to know them not long ago, less than a couple of hundreds years ago. By learning about the hygiene, use of detergents, alcohol, other disinfectants, then anti-microbial agents such as antibiotics, and vaccines, we were able to fight some of these infections befalling on us. So until a little while ago, we thought that infections and infestations have faded out, at least from the developed lands and only remains to be a struggle in the developing nations due to poor hygiene and poverty. But the last few decades have opened our eyes very well that the “survival of the fittest” is still the rule and we are all at the mercy of the rulers of the earth, the microbes and we might be at the verge of extinction soon. Unfortunately our life history on earth could be a lot shorter than what we thought, not because of the greed of our war machines, or the anger of the sun or another extraterrestrial attack on our being, but by microbial invasions! While we thought of “evolution” as an upward phenomenon to create us, humans so to rule the world and destroy it, we well observed and understood that “evolution” is in every direction, and the “wisest” is not the “winner”, but the “strongest”.

Epidemics that have been a relatively rare incidents and exceptions in the past, have become the rule over the past couple of decades and have evolved to “Pandemics”! by our globalization, in fact we have helped the microbial world to get closer to all of us and we are not just sharing our gossips, greed, and ideas, but our germs. Through our infiltration to the nature and the wild, urbanization and destroying the environment, we have delineated the boundary between the civil and the wild life. As we will read in more detail in the following, more than %65 of our humans’ infections and the recent epidemics and pandemics are “Zoonotic” or originating from other animals, specially the wild life, into our very beings. It seems that the microbial invasions are all in full force and we are in full surrender, and we will fade out by acute attacks of epidemics and pandemics from outside, and at the same time, like Trojans invaded from within by the autoimmune disorders, cancers, degenerative, physical and mental disorders all caused by microbial invasions. If at the end anyone survives on earth, their genes have been mutated by the microbial attacks and we may not be humans after all as we know it today! Although these lines could be quite frightening and nightmarish, it is truly scientific and is known to microbiologists for a while. We may not have the solution to the survival yet, as the attacks are very serious and much sophisticated. But the first step is the knowledge of what is happening so to search for a collective solution and resistance altogether across the globe, that could never happen! In the following, after a brief review of the microbial invasions on humans throughout our short history, I will summarize an example of a few recent microbial invasions in the forms of epidemics and pandemics across the globe, while the list and detail of all could not be recorded here or perhaps anywhere else.

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The Vomit Bug: Invading Cruise Ships and St.Maarten (A very up-close and personal experience with the microbial invasion)

For the March break and Easter, we went back to the beautiful island of St.Maarten, where we purchased a condo in the Sonesta Great Bay several years ago. Since the resort decided suddenly and unilaterally a couple of years ago changing to an “adults only” hotel, the condo and time share owners with young children like us have to either not to go there and forget about their initial purpose and investment, or to stay in the condo and not use the hotel facilities as it is prohibited with family with children. But we kept going as we love the island and since we could go to the sister resort of Sonesta Maho daily and still enjoy our vacation somehow.

 This time when we arrived on March 15 for a 2 weeks stay, we were warned about a “stomach bug” on the island, mostly in the Maho resort. So we refrained to go to Maho and locked ourselves in our condo and satisfied ourselves with only the visual pleasure of the beautiful scenery and the ocean. After about a week, and reassurance from the hotel managements that there have not been any new cases for a few days, we decided to take our three young kids out of the condo to the Sonesta Maho, where kids and family are welcome. We could not believe how quiet was the resort that usually specially during the March breaks are stormed with families and young children! We stepped in the restaurant after sanitizing our hands several times, per recommendation of the hotel management. The restaurant that was always very busy, looked like a ghost restaurant and obsolete like after an extra-terrestrial attack on earth, very quiet with only us and a few others. We decided to sit outside in the open area by the ocean to be safer from the bug if still around. Inside the buffet restaurant, the foods were served to us by the staff wearing gloves and not letting us touch the food or the cutleries. All this seemed very suspicious and smelled the danger, but we relied on the reassurance of the hotel managements that there have been no new cases and the resort is safe as long as we sanitize our hands that we did several times. Long story short, we went on the next day, March 22 as well and enjoyed the resort and the beach, and watching the landing and takeoffs of the planes in the Maho short runway by the ocean.

 The night of March 22, was nightmarish, as first our daughter started with projectile vomiting repeatedly all night long, shivering and fevering, sobbing in fear of doom and dying. Then our youngest son, became sick the same, vomited everywhere, scared to die, then my wife who was courageously cleaning after them, started to throw up violently that frightened all of us, including me and my middle son, barricading ourselves in another room to be at least the two safe, but oblivious of the fact that the bug has already been in all our bodies and it was just a matter of time to show its symptoms! I could not sleep all night long, worried of what is going to happen to us in our vacation that supposed to be all in peace and fun. I had already read about the bug, a virus called “norovirus” or “vomit bug” that you will read in detail soon after the conclusion of my personal encounter. The night passed relatively uneventful other than my worries for the two of us in the barricade, but all of a sudden in early morning, my boy jumped off the bed in nausea, ran to the washroom and locked himself in, kept vomiting in the toilet for at least half an hour, not letting me who was scared, in as he is a big boy with pride. This scenario happened again three or four times until the vomits stopped around noon. After that he had diarrhea all day long, spending all of the Wednesday, March 23rd between the washroom and the bed. Shortly after him, in the morning, while I was thinking how I have been exempted by the mercy of the virus, that an instantaneous nausea overcame me so ran to the washroom and had a projectile bloody looking vomit.  We all did not recover until the third day and fortunately survived this microbial invasion as there are cases of death as you will read in the following.

The vomit bug or Norovirus is a genus of Norwalk virus, named after Norwalk, Ohio in US, where an acute outbreak of gateroenteritis occurred among children in 1968. This virus is the most common cause of viral gastero-enteritis in humans, transmitted by fecally contaminated food or water, by person-to-person contact and via aerosolization of vomited virus and subsequent contamination of surfaces. Norovirus is a very tiny, un-enveloped RNA virus possessing the highest mutation rate even among other RNA viruses.

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