This post is not about COVID-19. It’s not about the fact that, in the last couple weeks, our species has had to adjust to a new reality almost as startling as an alien invasion (which it is, in a way). It’s not about what happens next: a disease we can only slow down, which many of us will eventually get, and which will suffocate an alarmingly large percentage of our elders particularly — but not just that demographic — unless we can make a vaccine faster than a milkshake. Which we can’t.
I am not going to write about the plague, because I am not an expert in any of that. I am just your garden variety scientifically literate health science dork with an unrelated specialization. I know knee pain and frozen shoulder and muscle physiology.
I’m also quite well read in classical history, just a hobby of mine. Did you know that the beginning of the end for the Romans was probably a plague? It caused a huge recession, and a bunch of measures of prosperity just never bounced back — signals that were not seen again for more than a thousand years. So I know about that, and right now I kind of wish I didn’t.
Lots of talented bloggers are helping to amplify expert signals about COVID-19, trying to help everyone understand that masks don’t work (or do they?) and hand-washing works better with hot water (or does it?) and social distancing is our new way of life for a while (maybe quite a while). It’s certainly tempting to try to help out.
But I’m going to resist that temptation. My readers are probably already reading all they can stand about COVID-19, and would probably appreciate the occasional respite, so I will continue to pump out odds and ends about the science of pain, just as I always have. I will do it as best I can, for as long as I can, and hope I can weather the storm. (Book sales are already way, way down. This may feel a bit like going back to school: more learnin’ than earnin’ for quite a while.)
Obviously, if the subject of COVID-19 intersects with my turf at all, I will bring that up. For instance, if chiropractors or acupuncturists or homeopaths were demonstrating their moral bankruptcy and idiocy by claiming that they can prevent or treat this disease, I might mention that. But they wouldn’t dare! They can’t be that stupid, can they? That would be a hell of a thing if they were. It would call into question their ability to think clearly or ethically about absolutely anything else in biology and health care.
Thanks to Consumer Health Digest for compiling this list of examples of alt-med practitioners being exactly that stupid, plus some other COVID-19 fraud and quackery odds n ends:
- Hall H. Alternative medicine exploits coronavirus fears. Science-Based Medicine. Feb 4, 2020.
- Shapiro N. Fears of the COVID-19 coronavirus provide more opportunity for misinformation about ‘miracle cures’. Forbes. March 1, 2020.
- Bilton N. Coronavirus is creating a fake-news nightmarescape. Vanity Fair. March 2, 2020.
- Levinovitz. A. The coronavirus is not mother nature’s revenge. Foreign Policy. March 5, 2020.
- Colson T. A fake claim that cocaine cures the coronavirus is spreading online, and the French government was forced to tell people that it won’t. BusinessInsider.com. March 9, 2020.
- Saigol L. Dubious coconut and kale cures, rip-off masks and malicious emails. Beware of these coronavirus scams. MarketWatch. March 10, 2020.
- Bellamy J. Chiropractors falsely claim they can protect patients from coronavirus. Science-Based Medicine. March 12, 2020.
- Caulfield T. Misinformation, alternative medicine and the coronavirus. Policy Options. March 12, 2020.
- Jackson M. How scammers are spreading horrifying coronavirus disinformation to millions. Union Journal. March 14, 2020.
- Jones S. As coronavirus panic heats up, so do sales of snake oil. New York. March 15, 2020.