Skip to comments.THE COMING WAVE (An interview with Mother Abigail - The Conclusion)
Posted on 10/13/2010 5:16:24 PM PDT by James Oscar
This is the final chapter in my series of interviews with the enigmatic Mother Abigail.
It has been the most challenging project of my career. It has also been the most rewarding.
I hope that you enjoy the four works and I will briefly recap the first three for those who are just joining us.
WHILE THE RAIN IS EASY
Winds are hard
While researching the New Media, I became fascinated with the development of the Flu Blog. It seemed to represent not only the direction but the form and structure of the changing media in the Internet Age.
My original thesis was to write a series of articles detailing, as thoroughly as possible, the creation of the Flu Blog from inception to mainstream assimilation.
However, as often happens in war and creativity, events overtook the plan.
My derailment occurred in the following manor:
By December of 2006 I had researched, compiled and databased every conceivable factoid relating to the early years of flu blogging. I felt ready to publish my first article and on the second day of 2007 I started writing and soliciting feedback on a website called CurrentEvents.
I was very pleased with the finished product believing that both technically and factually I had established the main point of my thesis control of the media was being altered forever and that the evolution was being driven from the bottom up.
Here is that article:
21. Preliminary Clinical Description of Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome
- and over the next eleven days guided both lay and professionals, transformed the web site, crushed the paradigm and changed the way we interface with breaking news forever.
Oh, and there is that strange aspect of her name.
Every literate person on the Web new and understood, not only what it meant, but the endless nuances that lay associated with that name, in this context.
She signed on as Mother Abigail.
The e-mails all asked the same questions and they were all about Mother Abigail. Did I know her? Who did she work for? Had I met her? Basically the same e-mail over and over again.
This pretty much let all the wind out of my sails for quite a while. Because the truth is that I knew nothing of her had exchange a couple of brief web-based e-mails and although I had read every word she had ever written on the subject, my knowledge of the person was ZIP.
The only consistent trait of my personality, as several of my ex-wives will tell you, is that I have no great fidelity to any concept. So I fell back and reviewed my goals.
After a season of Tanqueray and tonic I decided to change my focus.
Via e-mail I asked MA if she would be willing to allow me to interview her and write an article about her. My operating paradigm at that time was that this lady was a seminal pioneer of the New Media and a scientist of serious reputation.
How naïve I was.
In the late summer of 2008 I was invited to visit her at her home on Lake Tahoe. It was a visit that would change my life.
The following is a summary of conversations that occurred from August 2008 until June of 2009. All the words are mine and mine alone. When I asked MA if she would like to edit my work or review it for errors she declined. Prior to the final draft I asked MA for a quote and she declined but requested that I include her favorite poem which I did.
This first part of the interview is hundreds of posts long and is one of the most detailed scientific discussion of influenza (and a lot of other stuff) that you will ever see.
That being said, I believe it to a very interesting read and a rare insight into an exceptionally unique and gifted person.
Here is the direct URL: (You will need to be registered because this discussion was not on the public forum but in the scientific discussion area).
Mother Abigail Interview Part #1
INTERVIEW WITH MOTHER ABIGAIL PART #2
October 19th, 2009
3. How has her previous work held up to peer review
Her work with SARS speaks for itself. Not only did she create a new media device for information exchange, but her guiding help with health care workers during those troubling days is much commented on in the threads cited above.
In 2004 Mother Abigail, whose life work was with hemorrhagic fever, gave the following analysis of Ebola research. Where she pointed the finger at fruit bats as the reservoir species.
Just a quick synopsis of the current state of Ebola research.
GENETIC ANALYSIS OF THE OUTBREAKS
Investigations into the outbreaks of Ebola in humans during the late 1990’s pointed to a link with great apes.
The origins of many of these epidemics could be traced to direct human contact with dead chimpanzees or gorillas, either through hunting bush meat or from handling carcasses found in the forest.
The index [first] cases were mainly hunters and transmission occurred by direct person-to-person contact.
We have identified at least 10 separate chains of transmission, each originating from one index case occurring between October 2001 and May 2003.
By analyzing the genetic material of the virus to see whether these outbreaks had resulted from multiple introductions of a single viral strain or separate introductions of several strains of Ebola it was discovered that:
(1) There were at least eight different strains of Ebola involved, showing that for this relatively short period under study the mode of transmission of the disease was more complex than previously imagined.
(2) Because Ebola is a genetically stable virus - unlike say influenza, which mutates rapidly - the fact that many strains are involved suggested that there have been multiple independent introductions of the virus from the reservoir species into apes and humans.
Different strains of Ebola virus may be widespread throughout the forests of central Africa, with simultaneous infection of great apes occurring from unknown natural hosts under particular but unknown environmental conditions.
Ebola outbreaks probably do not occur as a single outbreak spreading throughout the Congo basin as others have proposed but are due to multiple episodic infection of great apes.
THE UKNOWN RESERVOIR
The great unknown, of course, is the name of this reservoir species.
We aren’t near to identifying the animal but we have some ideas, in particular fruit bats.
We don’t have much evidence at all, just observations and ideas.
Both apes and fruit bats eat the same kind of food so it is not unreasonable to assume that they may come into close contact with one another at certain times of the year.
Ebola outbreaks in wild animals seem to occur at the beginning of the dry season. But no one has yet shown that it is possible to find Ebola virus in wild bats.
In South Africa a scientist succeeded in infecting fruit bats experimentally and he observed rapid development of the virus.
So although it is technically possible to infect fruits bats with Ebola, there is still no evidence that this is the mystery reservoir species.
Until this animal is found, the sole measure that we can take in predicting and preventing an Ebola outbreak in humans is to watch what is happening to gorillas and chimpanzees in the wild.
I wish there were better news.
57 posted on Monday, April 26, 2004 8:05:52 PM by Mother Abigail
Then in 2007 she names genus and species of the reservoir species.
What concerns me most is that we might begin to see an infection pattern with Ebola that is now well documented in Marburg outbreaks.
1. We know that human infection with Ebola comes about through the intermediary of infected great ape carcasses.
2. The viral transmission to primates occurs in the dry season, a period when food resources become increasingly scarce. The great apes then come into competition with bat species for fruit supplies when foraging and can be infected notably by blood or by placental fluid that escapes when bats give birth. (See my post #57 from 2004)
3. The mode of contamination by Marburg virus appears to be different, however. It does not appear to need any intermediary to be pathogenic for humans, as foreseen from the data on Marburg epidemic outbreaks.
In one outbreak, which raged in the north-east of DRC in 2000, most people infected worked in a goldmine, which turned out to be the refuge for a large colony of Egyptian rousettes. During the second epidemic, in Angola, the first victims were children who had gathered fruit from trees where a large population of this species of fruit bat roosted.
4. R. aegyptiacus - Carries both antibodies and viral RNA fragments - strongly suggesting that this bat species is a non-symptom developing carrier of the Marburg virus - (i.e.) the natural reservoir.
75 posted on 10/09/2007 7:58:39 AM PDT by Mother Abigail
This hypothesis of Mother Abigail was proven true in 2009.
EBOLA AND MARBURG HEMORRHAGIC FEVER, EGYPTIAN FRUIT BAT - WEST AFRICA
A ProMED-mail post
ProMED-mail is a program of the
International Society for Infectious Diseases
Date: Fri 2 Oct 2009
Source: Bloomberg.com [edited]
Virus Hunters Find Ebola, Marburg Source in Fruit Bat
The study, based on blood tests on more than 2000 bats in Gabon and
the Republic of Congo, will help scientists solve a mystery that has
confounded them for more than 30 years: which species harbor Ebola
and Marburg [viruses] without getting sick. The answer may explain
how the viruses persist in the environment and point to ways humans
can avoid a disease that causes fatal bleeding and organ failure in
at least half of cases.
“Very eminent scientists have been searching for decades to find the
source,” said John Mackenzie, a Melbourne-based virologist who
assists the World Health Organization in its response to outbreaks.
“Until you know what it is, you can’t piece together the epidemiology
or begin to think about managing the risks to both humans and wildlife.”
Marburg hemorrhagic fever was recognized in 1967, when outbreaks
occurred in laboratories in Marburg and Frankfurt, Germany, and in
the Serbian [Yugoslavian] capital, Belgrade. Cases were traced to
African green monkeys imported for research and polio vaccine
production. Then, 9 years later, a closely related virus was found to
have sparked a deadly outbreak near the Ebola River in the Democratic
Republic of Congo, formerly known as Zaire.
Disease trackers have tested everything from snakes to guinea pigs in
the search for an animal reservoir and have been repeatedly led back
to caves, mines and bats. A 2005 study published in the journal
Nature found evidence of symptomless ebolavirus infection in 3
species of fruit bat in West Africa, indicating that these animals
may be the ones silently harboring the virus. In March ,
scientists reported the 1st evidence directly connecting a human
Ebola hemorrhagic fever outbreak to the putative fruit bat reservoir.
The study reported this week is the 1st to show that ebolavirus and
marburgvirus are circulating simultaneously in bat populations in one
country. While several human Ebola hemorrhagic fever outbreaks have
occurred in Gabon, no cases of Marburg hemorrhagic fever have been
reported there, the authors said. The presence of marburgvirus in the
West African nation represents a “potential and previously
unrecognized threat to humans,” they said.
“These findings provide much stronger evidence for a reservoir in
bats,” Xavier Pourrut, a virologist at Gabon’s International Center
for Medical Research in Franceville and the study’s lead author, said
in a telephone interview. “The next step is to understand how the
viruses circulate in bat populations over time.” Pourrut and
collaborators from the Special Pathogens Branch of the Centers for
Disease Control and Prevention in Atlanta and France’s Institute for
Development Research looked for evidence of previous ebolavirus and
marburgvirus infection in the blood samples of 2147 bats from at
least 9 species. Tests were conducted from 2003 to 2008 in 3 regions
of Gabon and in the Ebola epidemic region of north Congo.
Of all the bats sampled in significant numbers, only specimens of the
cave-roosting Egyptian fruit bat, or _Rousettus aegyptiacus_, were
found to harbor antibodies against both ebolavirus and marburgvirus,
the authors wrote, “suggesting that this species may be a natural
host of both viruses.” The Egyptian rousette, with a doglike face and
ears, is found along the Nile River in Egypt, across Sub-Saharan
Africa, eastern Mediterranean and the Middle East. While some groups
may occasionally roost outside in trees, the bats of this species
prefer to inhabit caves, mines and tombs, and feast on fruit trees at
night. These preferences give it a stronger link with the circulation
of ebolavirus and marburgvirus more frequently found in rain forests,
said Pierre Formenty, leader of the emerging and dangerous pathogens
team at the World Health Organization (WHO) in Geneva.
Formenty was among 29 authors of a study published in July 
that showed Marburg virus could be isolated from seemingly healthy
Egyptian fruit bats caught in Uganda’s Kitaka Cave, where miners
infected with the virus in 2007 had worked. While some outbreaks in
humans have been directly linked to contact with bats, more evidence
exists to link cases with infected apes, chimpanzees and other
primates that are often consumed in Central Africa. These animals, in
turn, probably got the virus by eating fruit contaminated with saliva
or other bodily fluids from bats, according to Pourrut.
Once a human is infected, there is no cure for ebolavirus or
marburgvirus infection. After an incubation period of about a week,
victims rapidly develop high fever, diarrhea, vomiting, respiratory
disorders and hemorrhaging. Death can ensue within a few days. About
a quarter of Marburg hemorrhagic fever cases are fatal, whereas case
fatality rates range from 50 to 80 percent with Ebola hemorrhagic
fever in Africa.
Ebolavirus may circulate naturally within at least one other bat
species and spread to members of the Egyptian rousette via contact
with infected saliva left on fruit remnants, Formenty said in an
interview. Also, no link with the Egyptian fruit bat was found with
at least 3 Ebola hemorrhagic fever outbreaks, he said. “We’ve got a
whole lot of clues on the crossword puzzle and we’re just filling the
blanks now,” said Bob Swanepoel, a virologist at South Africa’s
National Institute for Communicable Diseases in Johannesburg, who 1st
sought to unravel the history of Marburg hemorrhagic fever in the
mid-1970s. Scientists will complete the task within a decade, he said.
In the spring of 2009 I asked her the following questions and then reported her answers here in July of 2009.
Q. There are many people worried about the novel H1N1 virus combining with the H5N1 virus. What are your feelings on the issue?
MA. The HPAI A(H5N1) virus is an avian disease - panzootic in poultry and wild birds - and while there have been over 250 human deaths in the last six years from H5N1 infection there is very limited human-to-human transmission of the virus.
But it is worrisome considering it’s:
1. High lethality
2. Worldwide host reservoir
3. And propensity for mutation
We know, for instance, that in Indonesia the virus may be adapting to pigs.
The H5N1 virus isolated from pigs is less harmful to mice than the H5N1 isolated from chickens.
This means that the virus growing in pigs might well be adapting to a new host - which, in turn, suggest that it might eventually adapt to humans as well.
Pigs are seen as a possible intermediate host that can help in that adaptation because the epithelial cells in pigs’ trachea can be infected by both avian and human flu. Where, in the event of co-infection, viral reassortment might occur.
It seems prudent to be concerned.
However, the normal seasonal flu kills over 30,000 per year which is a quantum leap in risk.
As to the novel H1N1 virus now spreading like wildfire around the globe - the issue is different. The new H1N1 virus is more deadly than common seasonal influenza because of its ability to infect cells deep in the lungs where it can cause scarring and pneumonia.
Also it is more virulent. At least in animal models that is, what we see in the human population is a rather low (0.2%) lethality. Time will tell what the final verdict on virulence is.
We know for certain that it does not have the mitochondrial killing prowess of the 1918 flu virus. However it seems to have spread in six weeks as much as the seasonal flu spreads in six months. It is hot.
As to your question of the two mixing and somehow acquiring the lethality of H5N1 and infectiousness of H1N1 - it is of course possible.
Antigenic shift between avian influenza and human influenza is not something unheard of. The “Asian” flu pandemic of 1957 and the “Hong Kong” flu pandemic of 1968 both introduced novel strains.
The H2 that appeared in 1957 and the H3 that appeared in 1968 came from influenza viruses circulating in birds.
So when we consider that the human population has absolutely no immunity against any H5 viruses the red flags go very high indeed.
Will H5N1 reassort with H1N1 or with H3N2, or will it “drift” into another host like pigs and then move to other mammals?
It has failed over the last few years to combine with H3N2 and has yet to find a non-avian host.
When novel H1N1 becomes ubiquitous, as it certainly appears headed, will the increased opportunity for antigenic shift finally create a specific case of reassortment or viral shift that confers a phenotypic change?
I don’t know. No one does, but we can use our experience and make educated calculations as to the possibilities. I would rate the chance of H1 acquiring a polybasic cleavage site at nil, but the odds of H1 picking up lethal genes or polymorphisms at >5%.
This second interview is shorter and a bit less technical the URL is here:
INTERVIEW WITH MOTHER ABIGAIL PART #3
JANUARY 25, 2010
Anyway, the snow has let up and there is blue sky lighting up a winter wonderland little town. I spent a very long time visiting with Mother Abigail yesterday and, as I promised, here is a summary of my notes.
When I arrived at MAs home it was lightly snowing and her home could have been out of a movie set, just beautiful and very cozy. MA seemed glad to see me - which put me a bit at ease. My nerves sometimes get a little edgy when I have to interview her. MA is both sweet and accommodating but there is something about her bearing that makes me think of a visit to the principals office.
While I made myself comfortable in her den, MA made us tea with cinnamon sticks. The fire was warm and the view out to her backyard was enough to make me feel a bit domestic. Sometimes I wonder what it would be like to not have lived the cowboy lifestyle - but the feeling always passes when I get on the road.
When MA arrived with the tea set I noticed that her hands are getting a lot worse. She has arthritis in both hands and often her friends help her with things that she cannot do - like open bottle caps.
The fingers next to her thumbs seem to be quite a bit dislocated now with a lot of swelling. It concerned me so I asked about her health.
Q: MA your hands look a bit worse are they bothering you?
MA: They look a lot worse than they feel. It is the dexterity that is such a pill, I have had to get a variety of gadgets to help with activities that once I could easily do with my hands.
Q: Are you on meds?
MA: Oh of course, I now have a monthly infusion and I give myself a shot once a week as well. Not to mention all the pills that I use for maintenance.
Q: How do you manage in such a big house alone?
MA: James I have a housekeeper who has been on my staff for twenty years and is an angel for me. Also, with my family living in Reno, I am never without help when I need it.
Q: MA I didnt, in any way, want to pry into your private life - I was just concerned.
MA: Of course child, I knew that.
Q: MA do you have a cell phone for emergencies?
MA: Well I carry a Blackberry for odds and ends and I never leave home without it in my purse.
Q: Good, I thought you must.
Q: When I write my next piece, should I leave out this discussion about your arthritis?
MA: (Laughing) No James I have very little vanity left at this late stage of the game. You continue to write everything as truthfully as you can.
Q: Thank you.
Q: I have read a lot over the winter and would like to ask a few questions about H1N1 and HIV, would you mind?
MA: I hoped that you would.
Q: Wolfgang Wodarg, head of health at the Council of Europe, has charged that the pandemic of H1N1 was overstated in order to allow the pharmaceutical companies to cash in. He has also called for an inquiry into the pandemic - claiming it is one of the great medicine scandals of the century
India has asked the World Health Organization to explain reports that the pandemic status given to swine flu was a false one.
Poland, the only country to reject the H1N1 vaccine, stated that We will not take part because its not honest and its not safe for the patient. This was from Prime Minister Donald Tusk who now stands by his decision.
What is your opinion of the validity of these claims?
Do you think that the situation was overstated on purpose, or that financial motive was a factor in the elevation of this new virus to such an emergency level?
MA: James I am not sure if you remember but in June Dr. Chan was under withering criticism to quicken the pace of the authorities in responding to this crisis.
On June 11th, 2009 she raised the alert level to 6 - our highest level. At that time many people were saying that we were dragging our feet and losing all credibility.
In particular, I remember Dr. Michael Osterholm, who is the director of the Center for Infectious Disease Research and Policy at the University of Minnesota, saying that we had abandoned science and were failing to declare a level 6 because of political motives.
It was a mixed bag. But looking back at the first months of the outbreak I am forced to ask what were our choices? If we failed to respond in a robust and unified manor then not only our moral credibility but our future decisions were in grave peril. The phrase better safe than sorry comes to mind.
I would rather have a huge stockpile of vaccine that we did not use than to have a true medical emergency without sufficient supplies to treat the public.
We are not Gods - there are no hard and fast rules about predicting the outcome of new pathogens. We try to be as proactive as possible (when given time) but much of medicine is reactive - and in truth we often are wrong in our decisions.
But to impute the motives of these fine people is scurrilous. I have spent a long lifetime in the company of people who are forced to make decisions about health on a very large scale - and our public health professionals are, by and large, ethical and caring individuals.
Q: But MA from the start you stated that this was probably a moderate outbreak.
MA: Yes, and so did many others. But we are not carrying the heavy responsibility for the vast complexities that must be mobilized to meet a pending pandemic.
When the buck stops on your desk, you do not have the luxury of taking the middle ground. When there is even a potential for disaster, the CDC and WHO must always prepare for the worst case scenario. It is their duty.
Q: What about your reservations on mass vaccination and the use of neuraminidase inhibitors?
MA: That is a different issue. I am strongly opposed to the use of neuraminidase inhibitors on any individual who has a disorder of the immune system (HIV, Rheumatoid arthritis etc.) We do not have enough information on the contraindications of this reaction to safely prescribe this regimen.
As to mass vaccination - when you have new vaccines it is wise to be cautious. The more controlled and disciplined we can be in their administration, the more confident we can be in their safety and efficacy.
This was the only time I was to visit MA prior to her developing pneumonia and getting very sick.
Winter came and went, MA got well and although she did not open the Tahoe cabin this summer, her health is good and I am anxious to complete this work.
The Third Interview can be found here:
October 13, 2010
Carson City, Nevada
THE COMING WAVE
(AN INTERVIEW WITH MOTHER ABIGAIL THE CONCLUSION)
It is a beautiful fall evening with still a taste of summer in the air. I am back at the Hotel after a wonderful day with MA.
I have a date on Saturday with Baby Cakes and life, at this moment, seems a bit too good to be true.
Nevada - how I hurried to abandon this place in the winter and how truly magical it seems this afternoon. There is nothing like small town America.
After interviewing MA for several hours and missing lunch I am in the mood for Tanqueray and steak. You can say what you will about casinos, but they dish out perfect steaks and cocktails like it was chips and salsa. And God bless them for that.
So I will simply post the introduction to this final piece (which of course is not written yet) and this little bit of a preamble and mosey on down to my favorite watering hole.
When I return we will start this bit of denouement with the hope of proving all my ex-wives and the many e-mailers wrong I can finish something.
So what is the coming wave? Is he currently writing about it?
This appears to be a series of interviews with someone who studied hemorrhagic fevers- fun stuff like Ebola and Marburg virus. If you read the book The Hot Zone you’ll be familiar with these nightmare viruses.
She also makes some interesting comments regarding the recent avian and swine flu outbreaks. The CDC and WHO have been accused of hyping the threat of H1N1. This Mother Abigail points out that they have to plan for the worst. If the virus proves to be mild then people are out a few bucks for a vaccine. But if it proves to be a dangerous flu and no one has manufactured enough vaccine then you could have a situation like 1918.
October 14, 2010
There are a couple of housekeeping issues that need to be noted first.
1. CurEvents.com where I first posted the “Birth of the Flu Blog” article has gone belly up. This is very common on these niche sites - especially science sites.
Which raises the question about the rapidly disappearing history of the Internet. If I had not written about Mother Abigail and the transformation of new media - would all that history now be lost. Many of the Web Sites that were involved in the early process of development are now lost forever.
Perhaps that is the way it will be, seminal people and seminal events will just fade away like used electrons without every being documented and credited. A disposable history if you will.
But that is a larger topic and gratefully we have a full record of all the work that MA did. As long as Free Republic remains on line that is...
2. Again all the words that appear on this thread are mine and mine alone. Mother Abigail has refused to edit or comment on any of my work thus far.
I have struggled to be as accurate as possible in my reporting of her views and thoughts. It is my hope that I have achieved that goal.
Carson City, Nevada
I arrived at the Reno Airport this morning and drove to Carson with a bit of nervousness in my stomach.
This was to be my first Interview with MA since the winter when she got sick. I have spoken to her several times and corresponded but this will be the first time I have seen her since that morning at the Hospital.
When very old people are very ill there is glimpse of something that I would choose not to see again. I spoke to MA about how thin that line appears between the living and the dead.
Because I abandoned Texas (for my own good) and have separated myself from a very dysfunctional family - I have been spared the harsher side of later life.
My sister is actually very angry with me for “leaving her with the problems” - and she is probably fully justified. But sometimes self-survival is stronger than any bond.
But back to MA in the Hospital - it will be a joy to see her back in the rigid form that so dominates every environment she attends.
The other thing gnawing at my gut is my young lady friend. As any sane person knows, older men should not date young beautiful women.
Last year was mixed with some very strange feelings in the relationship department. We were involved, we withdrew from that involvement and then we seemed, over time, to renegotiate our relationship.
All of which means that when I go visit "baby cakes" (please excuse my obvious non PC nicknames) I have absolutely no idea where we stand. And that is both exciting and worrying.
Carson City, Nevada
After checking into the Hotel I drove over to Baby Cakes house and visited with that charming woman.
She is a supervisor for the State and comes home for lunch every day at exactly the same time, so it is nice to have a bit of reliability in my otherwise disorderly life.
She is just as beautiful and poised as I remembered and seems in high spirits. We are going to go to Reno on Saturday and visit some old haunts.
This trip seems to be off to a wonderful start. But the real destination is MA’s house at 3:00 PM for a bit of tea and conversation.
That bunch of twisted up insides is still yet to be soothed.
Carson City, Nevada
It was nice to drive up to MA’s house again, the leaves are just starting to turn and this old historic neighborhood is something out of a movie set. It is the perfect home for Mother Abigail.
Her housekeeper was there to let me in and lead me to the library. It is still a wonderful and comfortable venue to sit in the afternoon and talk about the world. And when you discuss the world with MA you need to make certain you had a good breakfast, studied hard and listen closely.
MA came in looking very well and none the worse for wear, and that is a great relief to me.
MA: James it is good to see you again.
J: And equally good to see you MA. Are you feeling well?
MA: Fit as a fiddle.
J: That's excellent. The last time I saw you was in the hospital and as we discussed on the phone - it was a bit scary.
MA: A bit frightening for me as well. Would you like tea or a cocktail?
J: No MA I'm good.
MA: It is still too warm for a fire but one of the mornings soon it will be winter. I miss not going to the lake this summer but my Cardiologist reccomended I relax this year.
J: The cabin will still be there next year.
J: The first thing I would like to say is congratulations on uncovering the host of the Ebola Virus. Your post from April of 2004 is, I believe, the earliest identification of Rousettus aegyptiacus that I have found. You were not doing field work then, how did you arrive at that conclusion?
MA: Well, you are way to generous with your praise James there were others, I assure you, who were looking at this species as a host reservoir as well. As to how - it just seemed the right fit for all the epidemiological clues that were available. Dr.Pourrut and his team have been working on this problem since 2003 and their work will probably stand as the definitive study unless we get further data.
J: Perhaps they should have written about it sooner then. For as the facts stand (and I am always open to correction) your post about fruit bats as the natural reservoir predates their publication by five full years.
And in 2007 you stated:
“R. aegyptiacus - Carries both antibodies and viral RNA fragments - strongly suggesting that this bat species is the natural reservoir.”
That is pretty definitive...
MA: It was my firm belief that the overlapping of the primates and fruit bats during the late season had to be the common transmission point.
J: Bravo to you - it was early an early and correct diagnosis.
I have made my way to the Sierraville hot springs this afternoon for a little R & R. I have to be back in Carson tomorrow at 9:00 Am to pick up BC.
For those of you new to my writing style - I find that writing these threads is best done in a “flow of consciousness” manner.
I prefer not to get too structured or formal, so from time to time I will interject my current surroundings with my story. For those that this drives crazy - sorry.
Which brings me to the Sierra Nevada Mountains and one of the best hot springs in the world.
It is early afternoon and I have been waiting for housekeeping to clean my room and let me unpack. So far no luck. There was only one room left at the Globe hotel and there were none at the lodge.
So I will try to post a bit more tonight during supper, but it is really a lovely place.
Carson City, Nevada
J: MA I know that you don't like to talk about the SARS threads, but I have so many emails since I wrote the original article several years ago that I feel obligated to try and relay a few of those questions to you. Would you mind?
MA: Oh, I suppose not James.
J: Mostly people want to know about your original post “Precognition” where you originally alerted the Internet about the unexplained pneumonia cases in China.
Why did you choose to use Free Republic as the vehicle to post that thread?
MA: Well James it is not as complicated as it may seem. I do not have a computer and use WebTv on my TV to read the Internet. And Free Republic is one of the few sites that is workable on WebTv. Most of the others have too much junk and are really not compatible.
J: And you chose to post on SARS because?
MA: Fear son. It is hard to imagine how little we knew and how exponentially this threat grew in the first few days. I doubt anyone realizes just how mobilized and cooperative the scientific community was during that first week. I felt everyone needed to know what was transpiring in real time. And for an epidemiologist this was one very bad bug with a ticket to ride right into our West Coast.
J: Interesting. Were you really frightened?
MA: Very much so.
J: MA thank you for that, I must have had a hundred people looking for that answer.
MA: James, would you like a drink now? I have a bottle of Tangueray handy.
October 13, 2010
Carson City, Nevada
J: There is one more question that seems to be a constant among your fans, and that is what do you mean by precognition?
Do you mean like seeing the future?
J: Why would you choose to title a thread on microbiology “Precognition”?
MA: James do you believe that thread is about microbiology?
MA: It is not.
October 13, 2010
As we sat in MA’s library and stared out at the beautiful cottonwood trees lining the street, I pondered her response. It was a very odd thread - mixed with religion, science and pop culture - but it had no theme that I had ever discovered.
J: Ok, well what is the thread really about then?
MA: James why don’t you study it a bit and give me an answer on our next visit. How does that sound?
J: Fine by me MA.
I apologize for the long delay between my last post and today, but real life has intruded once again.
Kate (Baby Cakes) and I are debating the imperfections in our pitcher of Bloody Marys. The beautiful pupu platter of chips and fresh California fruit looks like Georgia after Gen. Sherman's brief visit - and the sun seems extraordinarily hot for November.
Yesterday afternoon the gray sky in Carson City became too much for even desert loving Kate. So we fled like fugitives to the West Coast.
And free from the insidious influence of Happy Meals - we sit by the pool at my favorite resort.
Since my return to Carson City, Kate and I have reestablished our relationship - it appears that lack of contact enhances our respect for one another.
So while my dedication to this project may seem lacking, this Autumn has been filled with personal happiness.
We left the Coast early to avoid the morning traffic and are now within sight of the foothills.
A perfect weekend ended last night over lamb chops and creme brulee.
We are such an odd pair. But it is our uniqueness that forms the basis for the joy we find in one another.
November 20, 2010
The previous two posts were written longhand over the weekend and I am posting them now to catch up on my thoughts.
It is early morning and there is no snow yet, just a light rain. I am unable to go back to sleep so I will use the time to continue with my reporting on MA and my conversations with her.
You may recall my name from the early days with MA. If you see her again, please send my regards; I remember her posts with affection.
I’m following this thread.
J: MA the first question I feel needs to be addressed is your warning last year that vaccinating individuals with any immunocompromised condition was unwise. Do you still stand by that premise?
MA: Very much so James.
J: Is there any evidence, after all nearly a year has passed, that your fears are warranted?
MA: Well James thanks to the work of Susanne Brakemeier of Germany we now know that the H1N1 vaccine Pandemrix is ineffective in helping protect most renal transplant patients.
Ms. Brakemeier also advocated the need to test the safety of new vaccines in transplant patients. Which is what I have urged from the get-go.
I continue to urge caution in using blanket vaccinations of individuals with any immunocompromised condition. The potential for harm is just too large while the efficacy is yet to be established.
Your name is very familiar to me. I spent over a year cataloging and studying Mother Abigail's “SAR threads” - prior to my writing "The Birth of the Flu Blog". You were very much a part of that early reporting.
Thank you for reading and I will certainly relay your regards to MA on my next visit.
J: I do remember, even with my poor retention rate, a lot of the lessons you taught me on neuraminidase and the flu.
MA: Of course you do, knowledge once acquired is hard to put back in the bottle.
J: What of your worst fears? You were highly agitated about giving H1N1 vaccines to HIV patients?
MA: And I still am. It is a foolish experiment. And, mark my words, it is an experiment.
The potential for adverse, even dramatically negative, outcomes in this stupid risk are enormous.
The long term effects are just beginning to emerge. Dr. Brophy, of the Childrens Hospital of Eastern Ontario, has shown that less than 70% of children with HIV achieved seroprotection from the H1N1 vaccine Arepanrix.
This result even fails to meet the European Union standards for human use.
It is folly James. And I have urged them to stop.
J: Is there anything you would like to add about this subject?
MA: Yes, there is. We now have a report from Australia indicating that their Fluvax vaccine triggered febrile convulsions in young children at nine times the usual rate.
And while the vaccinations have been suspended the current explanation - “the strain of swine flu used in this year's seasonal flu vaccine appeared to contain a higher than usual level of neuraminidase” - is very worrisome. For all the reasons that we discussed in detail last year.
J: MA I would like to thank you for taking the time to visit with me today and for all the effort you have put into educating those of us with just a limited knowledge of Virology.
MA: It is certainly my pleasure James. And you are welcome to come by here or the cabin anytime you choose, it is always a joy to see you.
J: You are very kind MA, it is good to see you well and I am certain that I speak for all your fans when I say to stay healthy this winter and please write some more on the Internet.
MA: I will try child, it seems that your priorities shift substantially when one gets older, but I will try.
J: Well if it is OK with you I would like to visit one more time before going back home. There are a few heavy topics we need to explore before I can say our conversations have been carried to fullness.
MA: Why don't you come back for Thanksgiving, and we can spend the afternoon on any subject you choose?
J: That sounds terrific MA. I would enjoy that immensely.
I have pinged your name because you are on MA’s final SARS thread.
I am certain there are many other poster who need to be pinged but I will leave it up to you to do so.
On Thursday (Thanksgiving) I will be conducting my final interview with Mother Abigail. Because she has been kind enough to give me carte blanche on questions - I am giving you a chance to ask whatever you feel is appropriate and respectful to one of the most sensitive and brilliant scientists I have ever known - and I will relay that question.
After Thursday I will be moving on to new projects (nothing lasts forever) but for now you have the floor - is there anything you want to know?
I have closed my hotmail account and will no longer be responding to that access.
Please ping me to your final posts. Thanks.
The long term effects are just beginning to emerge. Dr. Brophy, of the Childrens Hospital of Eastern Ontario, has shown that less than 70% of children with HIV achieved seroprotection from the H1N1 vaccine Arepanrix.
This just clanged a large loud alarm in my brain. Apparently, the vaccine contains thimerisol, formaldehyde, and squalene. Not only that, my question is, has the inactivated virus in the vaccine been shown to definitely NOT be capable of or susceptible to(please excuse my ignorant verbiage) recombination with the retrovirus? Fully aware that this could be the world's dumbest question, I bravely ask it, LOL!
A lovely holiday to you both, thank you so much for the thread, and peace.
Thanks, Mother Abigail gave me a chance to use my knowledge of microbiology that had been dormant for so long. The discussions and brainstorming sessions were invigorating. I wish her good health and happiness.
I will relay your comments tomorrow.
If I understand your question, it is:
Is the vaccine completely safe in regards to interacting with an active virus should the patient become infected after being vaccinated?
Is that close?
I think so. Can a retrovirus (HIV) combine genetic material with the flu virus, or vice versa, to make a “hybrid” virus? Again, my vocuabulary (and knowledge base) is insufficient.
In other words, the H1N1 vaccine was given to HIV positive children, and didn’t “take” very well. Is there any possibility that HIV+ patients who are given the H1N1 vaccine will have the two “recombine” genetic material to make (for example) an HIV virus that can be spread by aerosol?
I am not certain, but I doubt it. Like you, my limited knowledge is a true handicap. However hanging around MA and her constant teaching has given me a bit of understanding.
I will relay your question, now that I fully understand your intent to Ma.
The shrimp cocktail, the venison and two Absolute Martinis (one olive) have put me right into the zone.
Carrie (my very favorite waitress) has turned me on to a late afternoon buffet here tomorrow. It is perfect for me on a very busy day.
Kate and I will be serving free meals to all who come tomorrow at the Carson Nugget. They have been doing this for decades and they are kind enough to allow other to help serve. It is a blessing on every level.
There is a solo artist performing tonight with guitar and violin. There is only myself and another couple for an audience but his music is remarkable none the less.
I feel peaceful and in harmony tonight. Tomorrow afternoon I will spend Thanksgiving with Mother Abigail and I will ask the hard questions that have been ignored for the last few years.
But it is OK. When the last post of this series is posted, I will remain - and my life (which has forever been altered by this project) will be rich and delightful.
What a strange impact MA has had on my life. How empty and shallow my future lay prior to that trip to Lake Tahoe.
One more Bally’s coffe and I will go upstairs and hit the hot tub, work on my crossword and prepare for tomorrow.
Why I feel like an athlete prior to a big game - I do not know, but I do love the rush.
Thanks for your feedback. If it’s a dumb question, just let it go.
The Holiday spirit has pretty much dissipated by now and I guess it is time to get to work.
My notes are all laid out and I am back from a wonderful weekend in Reno.
As you well know, it is always difficult to get a carpenter to drive the last nail in any project. Not much different with us word merchants.
I picked up Kate at 10:30 AM this morning and we went to the Nugget to help serve. We were signed up for the 11:00 to 12:00 shift on the serving line.
We were assigned to the rolls and butter detail. Which was perfect. What a joy to see so many people, of all persuasions, enjoying the generosity of the Carson Nugget.
We developed a routine (being the first on the line) where I grabbed a plate and turned right where Kate loaded the goodies.
I then turned and welcomed the guest and gave them their plate.
Amazing how many people were in line and how fast we were able to serve them.
But best of all, right in the middle of the rush, Kate turned to me (all smiles) and said “what a good team we make”.
Having woke up the other morning with very similar thoughts, I just smiled back.
It is hard to become too attached. The scars from our last failed attempt at the “relationship thing” are still much on my mind. It hurt.
But this time seems different somehow. Neither one of us are drinking quite as much and we seem a little less stressed in our lives.
But, none the less, it seems prudent to just enjoy the moments. On the way out of the Casino she was just beaming and really happy when she hugged me from behind and said “I love you”.
That is as much emotion as I have ever seen from her. Her demeanor is very self controlled and in all things - professional.
All this is said simply to give you an idea that by the time I arrived at MAs - I was in a very good mood.
November 25th, 2010
Carson City, Nevada
I arrived at MAs in the early afternoon after dropping off Kate at her home. It is brutally cold but there is no new snow. I have a ton of mixed feelings about today. First it is good to share the day with MA and I have grown to love our time in her study. But also, I am a little reluctant to breech the subjects we have, thus far, downplayed.
I brought a gorgeous pecan pie as a gift along with a bottle of Frangelico (sort of traditional with us). MA was sitting in the study as usual while her housekeeper finished the meal.
MA: James it is so good to see you, thanks for coming.
J: Would not have missed it for the world MA.
MA: Would you care for a cocktail or coffee?
J: I would love a Crown on the rocks if you have it. Or any whiskey would be fine.
MA: Crown it is then.
She left to go in the kitchen and fix our drinks, MA almost always has Frangelico and tea, as I settled into the big chair by the fire.
While it is the cowboy lifestyle that has most defined my life and career - there will always be a deep appreciation for the rock solid life of others. Here in this womb of warmth and comfort, a man such as myself cannot help but wonder how it might have been.
A different decision here, a little more patience there - could I have ever ended up like this wonderful lady? Sitting in a family homestead, content with my lives’s work and reading in the afternoon before the fire.
Nice thoughts on a Thanksgiving day - and without a lot of recrimination. It is what it is. I have long ago found peace with my choices - but it is nice to daydream now and then.
MA: What a great day for a big fire.
J: I was just thinking the same thing MA.
November 25th, 2010
Carson City, Nevada
MA and I had a little small talk before the meal but it was just casual. We ate in the dining room with the drapes all open and the back yard looking like a Hollywood set.
My mind tended to wander a bit as we ate, I love good food as much as anyone but there was an element of surrealism to the entire event. In a week or so I would be back in California, either writing on some of the “real” jobs that I have waiting or just decompressing after such a long and involved work.
Also for the last few days I have been trying to decide how far to push MA on her views. I most certainly do not wish to be rude, but I have promised too many people that I will explore (on a deeper level) her concept of the “Coming Wave”.
Because of the huge backlash from my last attempt to discuss the issue - I have simply avoided the hard questions.
That will not be an option today.
November 29th, 2010
Carson City, Nevada
When I think back to the first article I posted in this series a few posts seem to stick in my mind as motivating me to continue.
So today I went back and copied a couple - just to bring us full circle. Before I continue with the discussion of Thanksgiving Day here are a few of the posts from my readers in the summer of 2009. To be fair these posts were after a very long and tedious introduction to MA and her ideas that, largely, failed to describe a very complex woman.
July 24th, 2009, 06:49 PM
Re: THE COMING WAVE (An interview with Mother Abigail)
I remember when you posted something like this on CE 1 to 2 years ago.
It went on and on and you never did get to the end of the story.
Good writers are much more concise. Just my pov.
July 24th, 2009, 10:28 PM
Re: THE COMING WAVE (An interview with Mother Abigail)
James S, I am really enjoying your story. It’s refreshing to hear in these times where people seem to be obsessed with cold, “concise” numbers and demanding predictions about how many people are gonna die. MA is using her experiences to tell us to get ready, in my opinion, and you are trying to learn what you can so you can pass it along, in a more humanized way. I am tired of listening to politicized rhetoric. Thank you.
July 25th, 2009, 11:12 PM
Re: THE COMING WAVE (An interview with Mother Abigail)
I am fascinated! Such a treasure of wisdom (whether or not you agree with any particular religious perspective).
Please ... continue quickly!!! I await your next chapter.
BTW, speaking as a professional editor ... you are an excellent and gifted writer. A joy to read your work!
July 14th, 2009, 11:35 PM
I would also like to get to the interview part.
So that was the way it was. Mixed reactions, mixed expectations - and it is always like that.
Creating is not only a huge challenge but the greatest joy in my life......
Back in MA’s study we added another log to her fireplace, broke out the Bailey's Irish Cream and relaxed completely.
J: MA you know that I am concluding my story about you with this interview, don't you?
MA: Yes of course.
J: You offered me the opportunity to ask any questions the last time we met, is that offer still good?
J: Because we have become such friends I want you to know that if you elect to duck any of these questions it will be fine by me. It is not a matter of national security - it is just that my readers have been very specific about what they would like to know. Good by you?
MA: I have never been shy James.
J: Well MA I am not certain. But let me start by giving you the best regards of a poster named Judith Anne. She asked me to say Hi to you. I am not sure you remember but she was very active in the SARS threads.
MA: Of course I remember. Judith is a nurse and we once spoke about how my mother was a nurse as well. But it has been quite a bit of time since then. James, no one else knows this but she is also the one who encouraged me to post on FluTrackers - again it was in our past.
It is just lovely to hear from her.
J: I will tell her so MA.
J: There was no one else who asked me to offer any cordialities, however I do have a list of questions that they would like you to respond to.
MA: Let me go get the brownies and we can begin.
Thank you very much, James.
As we sat eating brownies and sipping egg nog spiked with Bailey's the evening was getting late.
MA: Did you read Precognition like I asked?
J: Yes I read it several times and I must say MA that it is just all over the place. You used it to warn about SARS and you used it to post about Ebola over the years. There was a lot of back and forth with other posters about religion and stuff. But you used a lot of humor too.
It is a very cool thread because of the very long time line involved and all the people who seem to know you so well.
But MA I have no idea what the theme is if it isn't microbiology.
MA: James, it is just as advertised. When I titled the thread Precognition there was one snippet of a report about a strange pneumonia found in China.
I felt something very odd was afoot and had a very bad feeling about this bug.
It has been this way all my life. I do not consider it strange to have very strong feelings that later turn out to be true. It is part of my very being.
I assure you that there are others who can testify to their experience with hunches, feelings, foresight or precognition.
Thus it was with that thread. I took to the Internet to chronicle the events I felt were about to occur and when they did occur, I simply reported them.
I also opined on my feeling about the relationship to Ebola and fruit bats - which also proved true.
Precognition means only what it says - sometimes we know things are about to happen before they happen.
I have pinged you because you are a poster on MA’s Precognition thread - and I thought you might like to hear what she has to say about that posting.
J: OK, well that is clear enough. Do you feel you leave yourself open to ridicule when you talk about things like this that are outside of science?
MA: Outside of science James? It is none of the sort - do you remember our conversation about the current evolutionary changes in man?
J: Not really.
MA: We have became the dominant species on earth due to our evolutionary advances in perception James. It is not even open to debate.
Our physical prowess and our motor skills are largely unremarkable and in many comparisons simply puny. No, it is our ability to look back in time and make predictions about the future that has fast tracked us to the crown of creation.
MA: Not just perception, for their are many species with tools for perceiving the world that are superior to ours, sonar, heat sensors, extraordinary vision etc.
James it is the ability to time travel with our mind that has made all the difference.
MA: We time travel with our mind. We look back over events and we see patterns, we then look forward in time and extrapolate those patterns to the future.
Almost all giant steps forward are creative leaps done within some deep thinkers mind and then transposed into our physical world.
Easy as pie. We use an ability that educators call abstract reasoning. For example, you are given a drawing on a piece of paper and asked if you fold this drawing here and here what do you get?
You fold that paper in your mind and look at the result. Abstract reasoning. A scientist sees a series of data points, correlates them in his mind and postulates about future outcomes. Nothing magical too it.
All our recent evolutionary advancements have been made possible by the prehensile mind.
Perception James. And like most abilities it is subject to the rules of intermediate expression. God's big sine wave.
Some individuals will be extraordinary mathematicians from an early age with a true gift for numbers, some will be largely unable to comprehend complex problems and most will fall in the middle.
It is the way of life. Perception is no different. We all have examples among the people who surround us. Some are highly perceptive of many things and some are not.
It is all science and it is all real.
“...prehensile mind...” —I love it!
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