SARS? Worse yet!
by: Mike Lushington
It seems that we are selective in the things we fear that will kill us.
SARS has a great many people terrorized. They will not travel to Toronto,
they do not want to go anywhere where there will be a gathering of
strangers and they seem to want to shut down the world until a cure or an
effective treatment for this terror can be found. At the same time, the
things that routinely kill us in great numbers continue to be largely
Frankly, I am confused by this contradiction in our values and our
fears. SARS is a nasty disease, undoubtedly. It caught the world's medical
and scientific communities by surprise and continues to baffle them on
several fronts. However, the latest figures, world-wide, indicate that
several hundred people will die from it over the next little while.
Somewhere around five hundred people will have died this winter in New
Brunswick alone from complications caused by the common cold, or from
influenza. Hundreds more will have succumbed to various cancers, heart
disease and other killers that, I guess, have become so commonplace that
they are hardly worthy of note, at least in the media.
SARS doesn't really scare me, either personally or as a member of the
community. But here is something that does.
There was an article in the Telegraph-Journal a couple of weeks ago (on
April 11th, as I remember). It had to do with what the medical profession
in North America is calling a real epidemic. It is the disastrous rise in
incidence of Type Two Diabetes, sometimes also called Adult Onset
Diabetes, in young children. This has always been a disease that is
associated with adults, usually of fifty years of age or older. In the
last ten years, the number of incidents in children of twelve years or
younger - some as young as six - has increased to ten times what it was.
SARS kills a small percentage of the people who contract it. Usually
(not always, I realize) its victims are older; the rest recover. The
outlook for the young victims of Type Two Diabetes is much, much grimmer.
No, it does not kill right away; instead it sentences its victims to
kidney failure, heart disease, blindness and suppressed ability to fight
infection - all by the time they are in their thirties or forties. In
other words, this disease, until quite recently one of the older members
of society, has suddenly begun to target our children, in startlingly
large numbers. Yet, apart from that one article I have heard nothing, no
outcry of dismay, no demands for increased government funding to address
the solution. It is as though this tragedy has already been accepted as a
normal risk of life.
Could it be because we know the causes? Could it be that we can control
them, without having to make a huge financial commitment to find some
exotic cure, instead of making some serious but fundamental lifestyle
chances? Type Two Diabetes is caused by over eating and under exercising.
Nearly fifty percent of our children today are overweight. nearly forty
percent of them are grossly so. They do no exercise - at home, at school ,
or in their recreation. They are the candidates for this disease and they
are everywhere around us.
I shudder to think that I have become so cynical as to fear that
society has lost the capacity for self-responsibility. We demand that our
government fund the medical profession to find a vaccine for SARS, but we
will not take the simple step of getting our kids off the coach, out of
the potato chip bag and on their feet - even if it just might save their