Interview with A Virus

SW101: I’m sitting here today with Herpes Simplex Virus, type 2.  It has agreed to answer a few questions for SW101 Nation.  Thanks for joining us today, um, is it…Mr. Simplex?

HSV: “Mr.” Simplex.  Sure.  I’ll go with that.  (rolls eyes, muttering “humans”).

SW101:  Tell me, what do you regard as some of your greatest accomplishments, to date?

Mr. Simplex: We’re awesome, basically.  We like to consider ourselves ubiquitous, yet cosmopolitan.  We are particularly fond of the human idea of “make love, not war.”  mmMM.  Huge for us, that one.

SW101:  Ubiquitous?

Transmission electron micrograph of herpes sim...
Self-Portrait: Mr. Herpes


Mr. Simplex:  You got an ulcer on your nether-parts after a groovy night wearing nothing but beer goggles?  Probably us.  Any version of sexually active with any version of human being (we don’t like animals)?  Excellantae!  30% chance we’ll be right there with you.  Me and my posse are hanging out with 30-45 MILLION Americans.  And that just in the, ah, “middle” parts of the human landscape.  We got some cousins who live in the windy North quite happily.  We cross paths from time to time.

SW101:  Wow.  Qute a party.

Simplex: Yep.  And we’re inviting picking up around 300,000 new groupies every year.

SW101:  How’s that?

Simp:  We’re launching out all over the atmosphere much more often than people realize.  Those blistery sores we cause?  Well call ’em “pleasure domes,” referring to what they do for us as well as how our gracious hosts acquired them in the first place.  Anyway, we don’t just blast out from the popping penile blisters.  Usually, we send out early drones before the sore even forms.  We’re terribly proud of this tactic.

SW101:  Soo, when does the ‘party’ end?

Simplex:  That’s the best part.  Pretty much never.

SW101:  Like, never?

Simplex:  Oh sure, we take a break sometimes.  Lots of times, actually.  We hide most of the time.  But once we’re in a body, we don’t really ever leave.

SW101:  What do you hide from?

Simp:  There’s two things we don’t like in this world, and the Great White Army is the main one.

SW101:  Um, you refer to Tsar Ivan III‘s anti-Bolshevik Imperial Russian Army in the 1920’s?

Electron microscopic image of a single human l...
Human Lymphocyte. Non-friend to HSV's everywhere (everywhere it thinks to look, that is)


Simp:  What?!  What kind of freak-show wonk are you?  No!  The human immune system.  All the cells in that army are white.  Or clear.  Or something.  Scary, those guys.  They can blow us up, eat us, chew us up, spit out pieces of us so their comrades can eat the rest of us…it’s disgusting, really.  It’s like a bad horror movie.  Ugh!  Look at that picture of the immune cell!  Don’t you have any shame?  I didn’t walk in here holding up pictures of car accidents, or guys who accidentally fell into meat grinders, did I?  Why don’t we just sit around and ponder Charles Manson, and all his fabulous exploits?  Oh, actually, that guy was pretty good for us, as I recall.

Anyway, where was I?  (fans self, leans back weakly).  Oh yes, when it’s up and running full-bore, the human immune system it a giant headache for us.  We try to lay low.  No sense in getting our heads knocked off.  The good news is that it gets stretched pretty thin trying to cover all the problems that come up in those unnecessarily complex organisms of yours.  It’s pretty easy to come out and play once the person is stressed, sick, too hot or cold or with some disease that naturally keeps the White Army back in the barracks, so to speak.

SW101:  So, you hide in the nerves, right?

Mr. Simplex:  (looks left and right conspiratorially) Yep.  Broadly speaking.  This is the secret to our survival, by the way.  Our lair.  Your nerves.

SW101:  And, specifically?

Simplex:  Well, you guys have no hope of actually finding us, so I’ll just go ahead and tell you.  My guys hang out in the roots of the nerves that extend from the sacrum.  S2-5, usually.  In the ganglion.  It’s nice there.  Our version of what you’d call waterfront property, I’d imagine.  Our cousins hang out in similar nerves in the face.

SW101:  You mentioned two things you don’t like, what’s the other?

Simplex:  Condoms.  We hate ’em.

SW101:  That bad, huh?  Your great nemesis?

Simplex:  Well, actually, our relationship to them is a bit complicated.  Maybe like Ariel Sharon vs. Yassir Arafat.

SW101:  Surely you’re referring to the Israeli-Palestinian former leaders…both dead now?

Yasser Arafat at 'From Peacemaking to Peacebui...
Ariel Sharon thinks I'm a punk. I told him the feeling was mutual over tea this afternoon.


Simplex:  Dead?  Really?  I don’t think we had anything to do with that.  We try not to kill our hosts…bad for real estate, as you can imagine.  But yeah, them.  They hated each other, but at the same time, they created lots of business for each other too.  Get it?  People don’t like using condoms, for some reason.  But those that do are WAY lax about concerning themselves with us.  Since we don’t just hang out in areas covered by those suffocating, smothering latex udders, we get around pretty well when condoms are in the mix.  People jump into their illicit affairs, thinking they’re safe…and forget to ask anything about us.

So, it’s a love-hate thing.  Overall, condoms are probably pretty good for business.

SW101: So, you hate condoms.  What do you love?

Simples:  Promiscuity.  We’re BFF’s.  Make love, not war, dude.  Preferably, don’t even look down at what you’re doing.

It’s not personal, by the way.  We’re just doing what we are meant to do…which is reproduce.  Everyone who is living with us now should understand that.  It’s one big happy family of organisms doing what they were meant to do…mate, and reproduce.  It’s natural.  When you’re mating…so are we.  All I can say is, sorry for the inconvenience.

Most Common Blood Type?

You can figure this out on Google in .20 seconds. I know. I did it. It’s O+.

The fact that I searched for this begs the question…why? Shouldn’t I know this?

*ahem*…blush. Pretty much, yeah. I should know it and in fact once I read it, I remembered that I knew it. Can I prove that? Nope. But once upon a time – according to me – I really did know that without Google’s help.

What I DO still know is what blood type O+ means. The O signifies one of 4 major blood groups: A, B, AB and O. What does it mean to be one type or another? Really it’s a description of the type of protein on the exterior of human red blood cells. Imagine a smooth, red balloon. Smooooooooth. Ok. Got it? That’s NOT how it looks.

rbc1.jpgFirst, imagine pushing into the balloon with both fists at equal points from each other (as in, the north end and the south end) to the point where both fists are almost touching through the balloon. Now you have a better idea of the shape of a blood cell (if you haven’t noticed the HUGE red picture next door). Now imagine buh-jillions of antennas, scaffolding and twisted metal extending from the surface of the balloon. THAT’S what it looks like. You just don’t see them because they’re small and most pics (again, next door) don’t show them.

Of those things sticking out of the balloon, the most important are these two big ones…aptly named A and B. Think of it like the city of Paris – lots of buildings everywhere – with a big Eieffel Tower sticking up higher than all of them. Some balloons have one tower (A). Some have a different one (B). Some have both (AB). Then there’s one that doesn’t have any, which is called O just for fun.

There’s another important thing sticking out of the cell. It’s either there or it isn’t. If it’s there, you’re +. If not, you’re -.

A little-known fact is that there’s all those other proteins (buildings in Paris, if you’re still traipsing through the analogy) that only sorta matter to practical health issues. The fact is that your immune system gets REALLY annoyed at the A’s, B’s and +’s if it’s never seen them before. It doesn’t care about the other “buildings” – they may cause a fever or turn your pee dark for a few days. But if you get blood cells that have A, B, or + antenne on them, your immune system will attack them, kill them, and make you really sick. It’s can be especially tragic if it happens in a baby. But the other buildings don’t really matter to anyone but PhD’s. There’s all kinds of them, all with names and designations that nobody cares about (although there is one protein called the “Lutheran” protein which, in my opinion, puts a whole new spin on the predestination thing).

So the most common blood type is O+. People who have O+ have immune systems that don’t like blood with A, B or AB proteins. However, they don’t care if that blood is + or -. So, if you your goal in life is to donate blood, you want to have blood type O-. This type of blood is the Switzerland of red blood cells. Everybody gets along with it because it has no important proteins to attack. If, on the other hand, you spend most of your time in high-velocity situations and the potential for massive blood loss is looming in your future, you’d like to be of type AB+. This means your immune system has seen it all – the Moll Flanders of immune systems (been around the block, if you will). O- is therefore the “Universal Donor”, meaning it is appropriate for Klingons, Wookies and all Earthlings. AB+ is the “Universal Recipient”, meaning they can take blood from all the people that the Universal Donor just gave to.

Finally, I just learned from the pediatric cancer docs that you can completely change a person’s blood type by irradiating their bone marrow until it’s all dead, then transplanting from a donor with a different blood type. Thus, if you want to commune with the universe, consider one of these two blood types. Otherwise, you’re just boring and complicated like the rest of us.