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The Gypsy Moth and Covid-19 Corona Virus

Have you ever heard of the gypsy moth? Introduced in the late 1800s as an experiment to breed superior moths for silk production, it was hoped to replace Japan's monopoly on moth based silk resources. By mistake, and apathy, the gypsy moth escaped into the environment, in Massachusetts, and spread throughout the state by 1900. With no natural controls or enemies, the voracious caterpillars and moths boomed in population, and major forest defoliation followed, even in the face of vigorous containment efforts which only delayed the spread. By the 1930s, serious infestation moved through Pennsylvania and the Federal War Department was asked to help the battle in 1940. Undeterred, defoliation reached 1 million acres by 1953 and 5 million by 1980. In 1981, defoliation was spotted in 13 million acres and infestation detected from California to Oregon, Wisconsin to New England and south to Virginia.

As a college student, I visited State College Pennsylvania in spring 1981 and found pure devastation. Caterpillars were all over buildings while roads were covered with blotches where tires had run-over bits of the swarming invasion. The spring green hills surrounding the town turned brown in days. Helicopters chased the skies spraying vast swaths, and my youthful friends found humor by dangling a rope-tied boot off a balcony to see if they could hit one of the many crawling the ground. There seemed to be no way to stop the invasion; it was the end of the world!

Then, the trend of ever increasing surges of defoliation began to diminish after the horrific episodes of the early 1980s, why? A virus, Nucleo Polyhedrossis or NPV, and a fungus, Entomophaga Maimaiga, became naturally established and began to reduce the moths population to reasonable levels. The NPV virus is most effective in diminishing large populations of moths and the fungus eliminates more caterpillars in wetter weather. Afterwards, the chemical sprays and physical deterrence that many hardily employed became obsolete. Most of the mitigation efforts were ineffective anyway, most specialists now say, "Let nature take its course."

So, what does all this have in common with the current Covid-19 crisis? The Covid-19 virus belongs to a family of corona-viruses that includes other nasty ones like MERS and SARS, yet also includes the mundane common cold. Upon infection, the severity of human illness depends on a person's natural immune response. Similar to the Gypsy Moth case and the lack of natural deterrence, the level of sickness in humans rests on the body's ability to recognize the viral infection, such as the common cold, and then release the right natural response. Now, there's a new strain of virus in town and one that has not been neutralized before. No natural protection? Oh no! It's the end of the world!

Luckily, the human immune system does naturally recognize what a virus is. Wit