Why turning to germaphobia won’t protect us from another pandemic

istock
Credit: iStock

As someone who has spent years doing research in health geography, I understand that this collective turn to cleanliness serves a purpose. We are, after all, in the midst of a pandemic. Anxiety about contamination is driving us to wash our hands more, which in turn is probably helping prevent the spread of Covid-19.

But what if this anxiety crystallizes into a long-term, habitual fear of germs? I believe that such a cultural shift wouldn’t just be unhelpful, it would potentially be a danger to public health — and to the broader social sphere.

To understand why, it’s helpful to remind ourselves that viruses can have beneficial effects. Some viruses, including many bacteriophages, possess life-saving medical powers. Others, including herpesviruses, can lead to serious infections, but in their dormant state may also train the human immune system to fight Listeria food poisoning and bubonic plague.

Related article:  All the resources you need in the global battle against the coronavirus

Moreover, the sanitizers and soaps we’re using to immobilize the new coronavirus can also wipe out bacteria that are essential to human health. The human microbiome, the diverse collection of microbes living in and on the human body, has now been established as hugely important to digestive health, metabolic function, and immune responses.

[T]he lesson of this pandemic is not that we, as individuals, must do a better job of avoiding germs. It’s that we, as a society, must be better prepared for the next big public health threat.

Read the original post

Outbreak
Outbreak Daily Digest
Biotech Facts & Fallacies
Talking Biotech
Genetics Unzipped
Infographic: What are mRNA COVID-19 vaccines and how do they work?

Infographic: What are mRNA COVID-19 vaccines and how do they work?

As of 1 December 2020, thirteen vaccines have reached the final stage of testing: where they are being given to ...
favicon

Environmental Working Group: EWG challenges safety of GMOs, food pesticide residues

Known by some as the "Environmental Worrying Group," EWG lobbies ...
m hansen

Michael Hansen: Architect of Consumers Union ongoing anti-GMO campaign

Michael K. Hansen (born 1956) is thought by critics to be ...
News on human & agricultural genetics and biotechnology delivered to your inbox.
glp menu logo outlined

Newsletter Subscription

Optional. Mail on special occasions.
Send this to a friend