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Monday, June 22, 2015

Mosquitoes....Natures syringes.

Hello loyal readers. The Skeptical Okie seems to be back in business, at least for now. I've got a doozy this time, so lets jump right into it.

This is the topic of the post. Recently at work, I met a very interesting , uh... gentleman? One aspect of my current employment is that I deal with people from every aspect of society. The intellectuals, the uneducated, the rich, the poor, the famous, and the unknown. We had a gentleman come in, and by some odd twist of the universe, I had to speak with him. Actually, there wasn't anything odd about it. He was either scaring or creeping out the other employees, so I got nominated to assist him. Due to the fact that there is a legal matter involved, I can't disclose much information about this person, except to say he was in his 70's, and on a fixed income. (These had no relevance to the case, but are actually fairly important to the reason I'm writing about him.) While I was trying to get all the pertinent information, this fellow began going on a rant about how he doesn't have to worry about any diseases. He said, and I quote, "I take 5 grams of pure vitamin C every day! I ain't got to worry about no damn disease!" I am going to paraphrase the rest of his story, due to the fact he kept repeating himself, and his liberal use of the word fuck, as well as other various combinations of cuss words and racial slurs aimed at the Irish, Germans (which I am a good bit of both) and Hispanics. Now, keep in mind that I am just trying to get his name, age, contact info, and the when, where, and how concerning his incident. He then told me that his doctor told him he had a condition (he tried several times to pronounce it and couldn't. I have no idea what his condition was supposed to be.) He didn't like his treatment option, which was a high level dose of antibiotics. He went to another doctor and got what this guy kept calling a "Super Shot". the doctor then told him to take pure vitamin C and it would cure him. He said he gets it in powdered form, and adds it to his morning orange juice. Something tickled my memory at this point, but I couldn't quite recall what it was. He emphasized that he took 5 grams of vitamin C everyday. I'm looking at him thinking "Why haven't your kidneys shut down yet?" I said that I believe the daily recommended dose is much, much less than that, and that doses that high could have some serious health problems later. I asked if he had spoken to his doctor about taking it, and he told me he had dumped him because he wouldn't tell him what he wanted to hear. Then he told me that he also doesn't have to worry about getting sick because of mosquitoes. I look at him and politely asked him "(What the fuck? was in my head but out loud I said) How does that work?" He informed me that mosquitoes are natures needles. They fly around and they bite someone that's sick. Then they bite someone else and give them just a little bit of the disease. From there, as he put it, "It's science". The person naturally builds up an immunity to whatever the disease is. I asked him what about Malaria, West Nile, Heartworms, Dengue, and Yellow Fever? These are all transmitted by mosquitoes. He then told me that, no, something else does this. What, he didn't know. The only disease that mosquitoes can spread is AIDS. AIDS isn't caused by people humping (his word), or blood, or kissing, it's the damn mosquitoes. I told him I really don't think the virus could live in a mosquito long enough to be transmitted, but he was adamant that it would. While he was saying this, I began sketching the lovely piece of art you see at the top of the page as a way to cope with the massive amount of Woo coming my way. I pressed him for the rest of his relevant info regarding his incident, showed him to the front of the building, and went back to finish my report. I can't understand how one person can know so much wrong. I've been stewing on this for a little bit, partly so I can research it, and also partly due to some legalities and protocols at my place of employment.

So now I'll share what I've found. Starting with the bit about vitamin C, according to the Mayo Clinic, the recommended daily dose is 65-90 mg per day, with an upper limit of 2,000 mg. I've done the math, and 5 grams = 5000 mg. So he is basically taking 21/2 times the upper limit of vitamin C. Some of the symptoms of a mega dose like this are :
  • Diarrhea
  • Nausea
  • Vomiting
  • Heartburn
  • Abdominal bloating and cramps
  • Headache
  • Insomnia
  • Kidney stones
(You can find this info from the Mayo Clinic HERE)
The last couple of years, mega doses of various vitamins, especially C, have been the popular thing to be offered by a lot of the Alt Med crowd. The problem is, unless you have a nutritional deficicency due to an illness or a genetic condition, most Americans easily get all the vitamins they need in just their diet alone. No need for supplements. Increasing your daily intake of any vitamin rarely does you any good, your body will just get rid of the excess in your waste. So it is literally money down the toilet.

The thing that tickled my mind about being familiar finally fell into place. Around the same time, there was a former doctor going around Oklahoma City offering what he called the Jesus Shot for $300 dollars, and former and current military got a discount. He claimed it would cure you from pain for the rest of your life. His description of the shot sounded similar to what other people had described, and I think he got swindled by the same quack.You can read a bit more about it from the Raw Story HERE. There is also an article from one of our local news affiliates, News9, but I really didn't want to link to it. The comments on the article are very disheartening. Person after person either claiming that his treatments worked for them or someone that they know, or else they are begging, literally begging to know where he is now so they can get the "Jesus shot" to help manage their symptoms. It's pretty damn depressing.

Finally, about mosquitoes transmitting AIDS, Looking through PubMed, I didn't find anything saying that it could be transmitted by this route. From what I could find, outside of a few fringe sites, everyone pretty much agrees that you can not get AIDS from a mosquito. First off, the virus is incapable of reproducing in any arthropod (mosquitoes, fleas, ticks, etc). Secondly, The viability of the virus outside of a human host is extremely short. The virus would most likely die between feedings. You can read the abstract from the NCBI HERE.

So, in conclusion, this guy was severely deluded or mislead, and possibly putting himself at great risk from trusting quacks and hearsay. This is one of the major reasons that the skeptic community and movement exist, to protect people from charlatans, misinformation, and misconceptions. Relying on Woo and pseudoscience can be costly ($300 a pop for a "miracle shot?) and dangerous (not going to real doctors).  We need to pick our battles, yes, and I know that if someone is a true believer in some form of pseudoscience, you are not going to change their mind. But I will still attempt to at least give these people some additional information to hopefully get them looking at a more science based approach to their problems.

So until next time, Be Good, Be Skeptical, and be sure to tip your waiter.

The Skeptical Okie.

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