A new pandemic is raging. Even before the Covid 19 pandemic has subsided, the WHO has now warned that a virulent form of Hoof and Mouth disease has “jumped” species in record time from horse to humans and is threatening to devastate the planet. It is even more deadly than the original. An appropriate name for the pathogen is being considered, as we speak. A tricky task, this, as it is imperative to avoid giving offense and fostering lasting grievance on the part of those who would level the charge of speciesism. After all, equine phobia is a thing. We must avoid maligning horses and their hoofs at all cost. Needless to say, the same consideration must apply to their owners, as well as their countries of domicile and origin.
Let us discuss the symptoms: Because we are confronted with a new disease, the syndrome and its various manifestations are still regarded as capable of impressive plasticity—that is, they are changing and changeable. The disease can rampage through every organ, bone, nerve, blood vessel and system in your body. The result is manifold noxious, painful, and deadly symptoms that appear to be unrelated to each other. Furthermore, these symptoms are similar to every disease, ailment, malady discomfort and inconvenience that you, or anyone else in the world, has ever experienced. Thus, it is easily confused with other morbidities. But, make no mistake about it, the underlying cause can only be one thing when testing indicates that the pathogen is present.
Curiously enough, the pathogen has an affinity for the right foot of its human host. At this early stage of the pandemic, we can already state, with confidence, that the microbe can be detected by the application of a simple laboratory test to the right foot. A swab administered between the big toe and second toe with a sterile Q-Tip is capable of rendering a true positive, false positive, true negative or false negative result, based on the suppleness of the skin. In short, the test is just as efficacious as the current Covid 19 test. A small fragment of DNA of the patient’s skin is sufficient for one of the above four possible diagnoses.
However, acute observational skills are also imperative! Let us describe what we definitively know: In addition to the laboratory test, the disease can also be diagnosed visually, if the carrier’s big right toe angulates away from the foot, upward by one fourth of an inch, in either or both directions.
Because an emergency has been declared, a vaccine is being rushed to market and will be ready between six months and two years from now. It will be administered alongside the greatly anticipated vaccine for Covid 19. By necessity, we have dispensed with the usual safety controls required for other drugs. Fortunately, therapeutics, such as hydroxychloroquine, widely in use for over 70 years for other diseases, and proven safe for them, is frowned upon by pharmacists. They are withholding the drug from the patients whose doctors prescribe them for Covid 19. Obviously, the pharmacist’s judgment should and does pre-empt the advice of the patient’s doctor! The pharmacist studied drugs in school. That is why he or she is called a pharmacist. What does a doctor know?
So, just make my day if a doctor tries to overrule a pharmacist who denies a hydroxychloroquine prescription, or some other therapeutic, for the new Hoof and Mouth disease. We cannot afford to inhibit the authorities from protecting us from the flawed decisions of those with whom they disagree. In short, second opinions are not welcome here!
Now that we know what we are dealing with, what do we do to prevent the spread? We cannot simply wait for the vaccine. Patience is not an option. There is no time for that. We must act now!
It seems that pressure on the right foot creates a veritable explosion in the number of microbes. The tissue on the bottom of the right foot is suited to hold the weight of the entire body with every step. However, the act of stepping causes the microbe to multiply. Perhaps it is due to the pressure exerted on the big toe of the right foot. Perhaps the skin on the right foot is more attractive to the pathogen than the skin on the left foot which seems inhospitable to it. These are good questions to which the answers, at present, are unknown. Nevertheless, once the microbe is embedded in the right foot, it oozes out, microscopically, through the skin and into the shoe. But, as these are among the smallest of microbes, the story does not end there. The motion of the foot in the shoe, after the pathogen has been released from the skin, causes it to be dispersed upward and outward, diffusing into the atmosphere. Of course, the condition is far more lethal when one wears sandals as opposed to a closed shoe. Nevertheless, the pathogen cannot be contained even in a shoe that is closed. Therefore, we must avoid excreting the pathogen through the action of our right foot, and, more specifically, through our big right toe.
But, how is this salubrious course of action to be achieved? To reiterate: When we walk, the microbe is excreted with every step, multiplying exponentially. Therefore, the obvious solution is to avoid stepping on our right foot. We must make this our priority!
Before going further, let us discuss the consequences if we do not contain this new pathogen. I do not wish to convey alarm, but it is very important to understand the mortality associated with the microbe. The distressing news is that those who contract the microbe have a 50% likelihood of dying.
I realize that this dire warning might give rise to panic or skepticism—two reactions that I must counsel against. Sneering denials are also ill-advised. No! Instead, we must soberly assess our needs and wants, our behavior and impulses, and maintain a steely focus on stopping the spread of the pathogen.
Fortunately, our experience with Covid 19 has paved the way for imposing the additional discipline required for battle against the soon to be renamed disease originating from the beloved horse. First of all, we have become accustomed to sheltering in place. We now have learned to distinguish between essential and non-essential businesses. We wear a mask and we maintain social distance. Furthermore, we are intensely motivated to continue to observe the above admonitions, rules, and guidelines, thanks to our recent and current riots.
The riots have taught us that the nonessential businesses are the ones that the rioters have looted, ransacked, and burned. We know that they are nonessential because we are still alive even though those businesses are gone. If they had been essential, I would not be writing this essay and you would not be reading it.
As to sheltering in place, riots make it advisable to do so for reasons that need not be explained.
The mask is now a habit. A fact of life. An essential artifact. It is also practical. Especially for rioters, looters, muggers, vandals, and thieves. A mask gives one the advantage of anonymity. Although, the other day, I was surprised when someone recognized me despite my mask. However, that only demonstrates the advisability of owning a collection of masks that are all different in design and appearance, and that can keep us guessing as to our own identity.
Social distancing is a new concept and we should all be fully on board. There are videos of brawls that ensued because of the failure to observe social distancing. One man was observed coughing and sneezing on another in a bar. Soon they were slugging it out. Irate customers joined the fray. At length, the writhing bodies of two dozen men and women, punching, scratching, tearing, and gouging each other were inextricably entangled in an unrecognizable human mass of contagion that certainly defeated the whole purpose of social distancing.
Be that as it may, the American people have, nevertheless, done a remarkable job of self-inculcation of new habits that, frankly, are rather unnatural to the human condition. Sheltering in place has resulted in the elimination of our livelihoods, or, at least, the livelihoods of many. But, the battle against Covid 19 must be won at all costs, or will be..someday…maybe…pending the vaccine.
Anyway, along with our Covid 19 lifestyle, what are a few more mandates if the reward for our efforts is the conquest and elimination of yet another new disease? The following rules have been thoughtfully formulated and could easily be incorporated into what we are already doing to combat Covid 19.
First, let us talk about the mask. I recommend that we jettison the shoe or sandal that we wear on our right foot. With all due respect to the shoe industry, this is for everyone. Not only those with a positive or false positive diagnosis. Why? Because we can be a carrier whether we know it or not. Healthy people can make other healthy people sick! Got that? So that means we wear a mask adapted to our right foot—a mask that is impermeable to the pathogen. Even though such a mask does not yet exist, wearing a mask on your foot is a symbolic act that communicates your understanding that the situation is dire and that 50% of us will be goners if we refuse to comply.
Secondly, and this is the final guideline, and, perhaps, the most important one: we must stop proliferating the pathogen when stepping on our right foot. We must stop walking and start hopping!
Yes! I said hop! On our left foot. Now, you might object that hopping on one foot will not get us very far when we have someplace to go. You are right. Therefore, enough said about that! However, I do acknowledge that hopping is tiring, if not tiresome. Especially if you have no alternative, and surely there is none. That is why I recommend, in fact, mandate, that we always carry a cane or a stick in our right hand, or lodge a state-of-the art crutch under our right shoulder to keep us in balance and to prevent us from falling. An implement of this sort will also be of great value in maintaining our social distance and thus enable us to avoid close body-brawling when our fellow human violates our six-foot social space.
Please, let me be very clear as to dispel all misunderstanding: I do not advocate that you employ your hopping-aid as a weapon. However, the violation of one’s social distancing space is an act of wanton aggression that is a menace to the health and safety of society. Law enforcement cannot respond to each, and every infraction–as recent and current riots attest. Therefore, it is up to us to look after our neighbors and to gently remind them that the common good is their good. As we have all experienced under Covid 19, obedience is its own reward.
Now, you might ask: Hopping? But, for how long?
Only until the vaccine has been brought to market and safely administered to everyone on the planet. What? Yes, I hear your objection. But, I will counter that just as we have successfully inhibited ourselves from making a living, having a social life, eating in restaurants, drinking in bars, going to school, undergoing elective surgery, traveling, going to the beach, concerts, movies, and, otherwise enjoying life, we can and will habituate ourselves to a state of restricted ambulation on one foot. Any further questions?