Two horrible new diseases

Scott Lanyon, director of the Bell Museum, has an article on two disease we should worry about, VHSv and EAS.

Personally, I think VHSv is the worst. It’s a virus that causes hemorrhagic septicemia in fish; just from the name you know it’s bad, involving blood and sepsis. My most horrible experience raising zebrafish was the time hemorrhagic septicemia swept through my colony and I had to euthanize every animal and bleach every last bit of plumbing to eradicate it. This disease has been detected in waters of Wisconsin, and it’s definitely not good.

EAS may not be as dramatically gory and lethal in its effects, but it strikes humans directly. It’s Evolution Avoidance Syndrome, and it causes the brains of scientists and journalists to seize up when circumstances are appropriate to discuss evolution in public. Apparently, we want local fish populations to develop, acquire, improve or have arise resistance to the hemorrhagic septicemia virus; we can’t possibly suggest that evolution might be at work.


  1. says

    We’ve had the good fortune with our fish tank (saltwater) to not know a darn thing about hemorrhagic septicemia. That must be why I initially placed EAS higher on the danger scale.

    I suppose you’re right, though – VHSv is probably worse – especially because I still hold out hope that EAS and related diseases can be eradicated without the equivalent of mass euthanasia.

  2. Dave Eaton says

    Oh, that EAS. I thought you meant electrophilic aromatic substitution. As an organic chemist, I’m immune, but some of my students never recovered…

    Interesting article that you link. In what little scholarly medical work I read, I guess I just automatically mentally equate ‘aquiring’ resistance with evolution. I wonder if the word choices are subconscious? Are scientists really avoiding saying ‘evolution’ or ‘evolve’ to avoid controversy?

  3. sailor says

    Yes, I put some responsibility for evolutionary ignorance on the press and even scientists not using the word evolution. “developing resistance” to an antibiotic and “developing resistance” to pesiticide. How much less ingorant would people be today if the term “evolving” had been used instead?

  4. Mike Fox says

    Lots of things written for the high school biology classroom also have EAS. It’s frustrating because frequently students don’t know what the author is trying to say. Gah!

  5. says

    Too bad schools can’t require vaccination against EAS the same way they do mumps and rubella as an admission criteria.

  6. Hank Roberts says

    > acquiring resistance

    Lateral gene transfer, I would think, is included in the broader term

  7. ctenotrish, FCD says

    Lanyon’s article is short, but sweet. Well written too! Thanks for bringing it to our attention.

  8. Ginger Yellow says

    “Personally, I think VHSv is the worst”

    Let’s hope it doesn’t mutate into Betamaxv.

  9. says

    PZ, please ban ginger yellow based on comment #11. That was awful.

    That said, Betamaxv would likely be even more deadly a disease but have a much smaller distribution. My dad would still have it in his fish though.

  10. skyotter says

    is the sloppy wording (or fuzzy thinking) the result of the anti-Evolution movement’s oft-repeated mantras?

    “it can’t be ‘evolution’ because they’re still fish. no wings, or fingers, or even tentacles! so it’s just ‘adaptation’, right? right?!”

  11. says

    I have a few coworkers with EAS? Is there any cure? I’ve tried sarcasm, reciting facts, handing out literature, providing website addresses. Nothing seems to work

  12. Arnosium Upinarum says

    terry # 14 says, “I’ve tried sarcasm, reciting facts, handing out literature, providing website addresses. Nothing seems to work.”

    At the heart of their resistance to reason and evidence is a powerful aversion to CHANGE. “Evolution” is the ultimate poster-boy expression of the whole nasty idea. They cannot abide anything that will wreck the stability of their precious belief tradition. Their mindset (suitably shaped by their beliefs) rests on a foundation that cannot accomodate change. They WILL not evolve (change), and so they CANNOT accept evolution (a formal concept of change, together with natural selection, complete with mechanism).

    Sure, they seem to be able to accept day-to-day mundane changes, but they squirrel that away into mental compartments conveniently segregated from the conceptual/ideological parts. Nevertheless, they regard all of those noticeable changes as having a conscious (preferably “divine”) guiding hand behind them. They’re struck literally dumb with fear over the VERY IDEA that things can change in a totally dispassionate universe – let alone that a very small subset of phenomena in nature operating under utterly indifferent mechanistic processes (under circumstances involving a suitable concentration of the necessary materials and energy sources) might actually produce greater complexity over great spans of time.

    They are terrified of the idea that such a “meaningless” procedure should ever have produced THEM.

    They can’t handle it because they’re scared of it, scared of CHANGING their minds. I personally have no doubt that such chronic fear represents a form of mass insanity. Its the madness that resists CHANGE.

  13. JohnnieCanuck, FCD says

    Nice article PattyP. Thanks.

    It may be unfair to the author, but I wish she had pre-empted the possibility of readers misconstruing that the dinosaur lineage was losing weight in order for their descendents to be able to fly.

    Looks like Jeanna Bryner is another good science writer to me. I look forward to more from her.

  14. demallien says

    The other day I saw a rather virulent form of DVDv. Of course, if it really is evolution, the question has to be asked – if DVDv evolved from VHSv, how come there’s still VHSv!?!

  15. Peter Ashby says

    EAS is common amongst rational atheist biologists too. Mostly molecular biologists, cell biologists and the like. It is pure academic snobbery, they dislike any mention of the E word because they claim it is not science, like their science of course. I struck this with my boss in first postdoc, who expressed those exact sentiments when I proposed that our results be framed as Dobzhansky would have approved. We had found defined and taken apart the control regions of a gene and vertebrate evolution was written across the dna, from a lancet fluke to a teleost and us. I kept pushing though and the E word did make it into the discussion, and that was after I had left the lab. Seems the logic really can be irresistible ;)