Moshe-Mordechai van Zuiden
Psychology, Medicine, Science, Politics, Oppression, Integrity, Philosophy, Jews

Do viruses become milder over time?

The short answer is yes. However, they don’t do that because they ‘want’ to live longer inside patients. Viruses have no free will. Rather, the process is called survival of the fittest – the backbone of classical evolution theory.

It was already well-known when I was a medical student, almost half a century ago, that over time, viral and bacterial infections become less vicious to a population. And the mechanism is not complicated.

Genetic material in microbes is more sensitive to (random) persistent mutations than the DNA and RNA of more complex organisms. These genetically slightly different microscopic siblings may have slightly different effects on patients. Now, the toughest ones kill off their hosts in no time and then their days are numbered — till a few hours after death. If they don’t succeed to infect others during the short sickbed and the day after death, they die out with their victim. But variants that have a better survival rate are those that make the patient less sick, less quickly (so they stay up, out and about, infecting others) and preferably don’t kill — because as long as there is life to parasite on, there is hope to spread.

So, the virus doesn’t calculate and doesn’t understand which would be its smartest behavior. The nicer ones just are spread earlier and longer.

And this is how, overall, microbial infections over time get milder but make more people sick. The seasonal flu is a good example of a virus that’s generally not as dangerous anymore. But it is so contagious that lockdown wouldn’t stop it. But it doesn’t kill as many people as does the newest coronavirus so far. Meanwhile, at the beginning of getting milder, the virus may still kill even more people than before, as I’ve explained before.

COVID-19 has one trick up its sleeve that is far superior to most agents of infection. The host spreads it best before s/he feels sick at all. I don’t think that it ‘wants’ to give that one up. That means that our best hope against this epidemic is prevention through vaccination. Smart people take little risk until safe and potent vaccines will be ready and available.

Meanwhile, don’t forget that this virus does much more than spread and kill. It can take people down for months. Even healthy young people, who were hardly sick at first. Many of them went from full-time workers and athletes to being chronically exhausted already for three months. Medical scientists sometimes are so anxious about death that they forget that there is more to well-being than not dying. There is a good reason for the younger and the healthiest people too to try and avoid getting infected.

About the Author
MM is a prolific and creative writer and thinker, a daily blog contributor to the TOI. He is a fetal survivor of the pharmaceutical industry (, born in 1953 to two Dutch survivors who met in the largest concentration camp in the Netherlands, Westerbork, and holds a BA in medicine (University of Amsterdam). He taught Re-evaluation Co-counseling, became a social activist, became religious, made Aliyah, and raised three wonderful kids. He wrote an unpublished tome about Jewish Free Will. He's a strict vegan since 2008. He's an Orthodox Jew but not a rabbi. * His most influential teachers (chronologically) are: his parents, Nico (natan) van Zuiden and Betty (beisye) Nieweg, Wim Kan, Mozart, Harvey Jackins, Marshal Rosenberg, Reb Shlomo Carlebach, and, lehavdil bein chayim lechayim: Rabbi Dr. Natan Lopes Cardozo, Rav Zev Leff, and Rav Meir Lubin. * Previously, for decades, he was known to the Jerusalem Post readers as a frequent letter writer. For a couple of years, he wrote hasbara for the Dutch public. His fields of attention now are varied: Psychology (including Sexuality and Abuse), Medicine (including physical immortality), Science (statistics), Politics (Israel, the US and the Netherlands, Activism - more than leftwing or rightwing, he hopes to highlight Truth), Oppression and Liberation (intersectionally, for young people, the elderly, non-Whites, women, workers, Jews, LGBTQIA, foreigners and anyone else who's dehumanized or exploited), Integrity, Philosophy, Jews (Judaism, Zionism, Holocaust and Jewish Liberation), Ecology and Veganism. Sometimes he's misunderstood because he has such a wide vision that never fits any specialist's box. But that's exactly what many love about him. Many of his posts relate to affairs from the news or the Torah Portion of the Week or are new insights that suddenly befell him. * He hopes that his words will inspire and inform, reassure the doubters but make the self-assured doubt more. He strives to bring a fresh perspective rather than bore you with the obvious. He doesn't expect his readers to agree. Rather, original minds must be disputed. In short, his main political positions are: anti-Trumpism, for Zionism, Intersectionality, non-violence, democracy, anti the fake peace process, for original-Orthodoxy, Science, Free Will, anti blaming-the-victim and for down-to-earth optimism. Read his blog how he attempts to bridge any discrepancies. He admits sometimes exaggerating to make a point, which could have him come across as nasty, while in actuality, he's quite a lovely person to interact with. He holds - how Dutch - that a strong opinion doesn't imply intolerance of other views. * His writing has been made possible by an allowance for second-generation Holocaust survivors from the Netherlands. It has been his dream since he was 38 to try to make a difference by teaching through writing. He had three times 9-out-of-10 for Dutch at his high school finals but is spending his days communicating in English and Hebrew - how ironic. G-d must have a fine sense of humor. In case you wonder - yes, he is a bit dyslectic. November 13, 2018, he published his 500th blog post with the ToI. If you're a native English speaker and wonder why you should read from people whose English is only their second language, consider the advantage of having a peek outside of your cultural bubble. * NEW: To see other blog posts by him, his overspill blog you can reach by clicking on the Website icon next to his picture at the head of every post. There you may find precursors to later TOI blog posts, addition or corrections of published TOI blog posts, blog posts the TOI will not carry, and some thoughts that are too short to be a TOI blog post. Also, the TOI only allows for one blog post per blogger per 24 hours. Sometimes, he has more to say than that. * To send any personal reaction to him, scroll to the top of the blog post and click Contact Me.
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