Book reflects on ‘overlapping pandemics’

COVID-19 and HIV offer lessons for the monkeypox pandemic, says microbiologist Joseph Osmundson.

Osmundson has been drawn to microbes—particularly viruses—since he was a kid, in part from growing up in the 1980s in the shadow of HIV. (“A virus with nine genes that could kill you? How could that type of mystery not astound and shock?” he explains.)

In college, he began studying the evolution of viruses like HIV, and since then has dedicated his scientific career to unraveling the mysteries of microbes. But Osmundson, now a clinical assistant professor of biology at New York University, also found that viruses are too complex to understand with science alone.

That’s where writing came in.

Osmundson had been writing about HIV for publications like The Village Voice and Guernica for years before COVID-19 hit, but the pandemic prompted a closer look at how viruses have shaped our lives.

“I needed to share what it felt like to live through this moment, this time of overlapping pandemics, as a queer scientist,” says Osmundson. “Scientists have feelings too—we are human, we live through the very things we study, and I wanted that complexity and emotionality to exist in a book full of science writing.”

The result is Virology: Essays for the Living, the Dead, and the Small Things in Between (W. W. Norton, 2022) a collection of Osmundson’s reflections on the personal, political, and scientific impact of viruses, such as SARS-CoV-2 and HIV, which became even more relevant in recent months.

Just as Virology was published in spring 2022, the US found itself facing yet another viral outbreak. Cases of monkeypox—a type of orthopoxvirus closely related to smallpox—have grown, predominantly affecting queer men and their sexual networks with painful rashes and flu-like symptoms.

In recent weeks, New York City and State, the White House, and the World Health Organization (WHO) have all declared monkeypox a public health emergency.

Here, Osmundson talks about the lessons we’ve learned from HIV and COVID-19, and how to apply them to this new public health challenge:

Source link