Wednesday, August 22, 2012

More Covino Comments Answered-Part XVIII-Fevers

Peter Covino in his True Book of Mormon Geography website, in discussing the Fevers mentioned in Alma, makes an interesting, though unsupportable claim and ridiculously uninformed statement about Fevers and their cause and cures. He writes:

 “Believe it or not, the single verse that refers to "fevers" in The Book of Mormon has been interpreted by some as "malaria," which only occurs in tropical areas. Therefore, they conclude Book of Mormon lands must have been in Mesoamerica.”

First of all, the idea of malaria has nothing to do with the tropics or with Mesoamerica. It has to do with the scriptural reference to deadly fever, and plants God provided to prevent it. Secondly, let’s dispense with the concept of the Tropics entirely. During the days of classical Rome and Greece, during their greatness, the virulence of malaria was severe. So many died from malaria, that the Romans erected numerous altars and shrines to the goddess of the Fever (Febris). Fortunately, the Romans knew how to cure malaria—they drained the swamps because “Care should be taken where there are swamps in the neighborhood, because certain tiny creatures which cannot be seen by the eyes breed there.” The Romans were quite aware of good hygienic practices and incorporated them into their city planning and public works projects, for example by constructing great sewer systems to funnel waste away, by draining swamps every chance they got, and of course by building many, many bathhouses.

Left: Rome was built on seven hills because the lowlands were swamps; Right: The great sewer systems come in on the West side of the Forum, and the drainage systems that cleared the swamps

Anciently, the months from July to October were considered unsafe in Rome at whatever epoch; which is confirmed by Roman authors advising the population to leave the city during the hot season – which incidentally only the rich could do, with their wonderful country villas awaiting them during such unhealthy months. The populace instead, stuck in the city, died in the thousands each year because of malaria.

However, Rome has what is called a Mediterranean Climate, which is considerably more mild than the tropics, and somewhat like that of Southern California. The average temperature during July to August in Rome is about 72º to 86º Fahrenheit, July being the hottest month.

The point of all this is simple. Malaria is both ancient, and thrives in areas where swamps are common. It is caused by Plasmodium parasites. The parasites are spread to people through the bites of infected Anopheles mosquitos (left), called "malaria vectors", which bite mainly between dusk and dawn. Actually, there are four parasite species that cause malaria in humans: Plasmodium falciparum, Plasmodium vivax, Plasmodium malariae, and Plasmodium ovale, with the first two the most common and the first one the deadlies, whicht is found throughout the world. Ancient Rome found that in draining the swamps, the mosquitos had no habitat and disappeared, as did the disease of fever along with them.

It should also be noted that the minimum temperature for mosquitos and parasites is not tropical, but a surprising 46º to 50º Fahrenheit, with a maximum temperature 104º and an optimum temperature 77º to 80º.

Now Covino poses six of his own questions and then answers them himself, even though inaccurately:

Q. In North America, in what "season" of the year does the "flu season" begin?
A. Winter.

One of the problems with his line of thinking is that the flu season has nothing to do with fevers. At least not the type of fevers that kill. Connected with flu, Respiratory flu has a fever, but intestinal flu does not. And the fever is easily treated, not by plants or herbs, but by aspirin and time.

Q. How many people does it say died from fevers?
A. Some.
“And there were some who died with fevers, which at some seasons of the year were very frequent in the land -- but not so much so with fevers, because of the excellent qualities of the many plants and roots which God had prepared to remove the cause of diseases, to which men were subject by the nature of the climate” (Alma 46:40). The scriptural record therefore tells us that some people died from fevers, and that they were frequent in the land, but not as many died (as would otherwise have died) because of the plants God had prepared. It is misleading to say that “some” died and not place it in context. The implication in the scriptural record is obvious—many more would have normally died without the plants God provided.

Q. How many people die today from Malaria?
A. Many.
Malaria infects 300-500 million and kills 1.5-2.7 million people each year, 3000 children a day, making it by far the most serious of the diseases spread by insects. The pathogens causing malaria are four species of Plasmodium and they are transmitted from person to person by mosquitoes of the genus Anopheles—of which there are about 422 species of Anopheles worldwide, many of them sibling species that can only be identified using genetic techniques. Of these, about 70 are malaria vectors but only about 40 are important.

Q. Do we have a cure for Malaria?
A. No.
This is a fallacious answer. Of course we have a cure for malaria—a cure has been known since the 15th century in Europe and long before that in the Andes of South America. That cure is quinine. Though it has now been synthesized in the lab, quinine occurs naturally in the bark of the cinchona tree—a tree that is indigenous to, and only found in, the Andean area of South America (prior to the Dutch removing it illegally from Peru and transplanting it in Indonesia). The medicinal properties of the cinchona tree were originally discovered by indigenous Andean natives in Peru and Bolivia; later, the Jesuits were the first to bring the cinchona to Europe. Quinine was the first effective treatment for malaria caused by Plasmodium falciparum, appearing in therapeutics in the 17th century.

Cinchona or Quina is a genus of about 38 species in the family Rubiaceae, native to the tropical Andes forests of western South America. They are medicinal plants, known as sources for quinine and other compounds

Q. Did they have a cure for their fevers?
A. Yes.
Obviously, since the only cure ever found naturally in plants, etc., is quinine (cinchona tree), and that has only been found to grow in the Andes of South America, one might consider that the Land of Promise was located there.

Q. Does this verse prove Malaria or a tropical climate zone?
A. No, it proves the opposite, it proves they had a cold season like Western New York does.
Again, wrong! The cold season of Western New York provides flu, which causes non-lethal fevers that can be easily treated; however, the fever spoken of in Alma was a deadly fever causing death unless the plants provided by God were used to prevent it.

Even in the United States, two varieties of malaria bearing mosquitoes exist in very large area, with two others found in small areas

Covino sums up  his points with: “It becomes apparent their fevers where climate based alright - ACCORDING TO THE SEASONS OF THE YEAR. This is hardly proof of a tropical climate. It is actually proof of a WINTER SEASON.”

Deadly fevers are based on seasons of the year, not meaning summer, winter, spring or fall, but by what takes place in that season. Around Spring in most climes, ice melts, rivers overflow, lowlands are filled with standing water that turn into swamps as the temperatures rise, providing an aquatic phase in which mosquitos breed. Too much rainfall, or rainfall accompanied by storm conditions can flush away breeding larvae. Rainfall also affects malaria transmission because it increases relative humidity and modifies temperature, and it also affects where and how much mosquito breeding can take place.

While malaria was considered eradicated in the U.S. by 1949, there were still 1505 cases reported in 2007, with New York having 326,  California 157, Texas 136, New Jersey 77, Maryland 67, Virginia 66, etc. Yet, in U.S. controlled tropical areas, such as Guam, Samoa, and Puerto Rico, there were only 2. And there were as many in Alaska as in Hawaii—two each.

It might be of note that Minnesota is one of the heaviest mosquito populated areas in the U.S. Other heavy areas are: Louisiana, Eastern Texas, North Carolina, Tennessee, Alabama, Georgia, Florida, and Virginia, are huge mosquito areas in the U.S., as is Minnesota, because of their numerous lakes which are sprayed annually, and Western Illinois, and southern Oklahoma. Many of these areas I have spent some time in and can testify that in all you don’t go outside without your bug spray and some type of medicsted ointment, such as Chiggerex Plus for protection.

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