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Gene Collier is a columnist for the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette.

The brains carried around in the human skull are basically wired to avoid unpleasant thoughts, but even the most emotionally stable among us cannot avoid intermittent cognition of the 9,000 things that can kill us at any moment, which for most people does not even include the Pirates.

If you’re like me, and God help ya, your mind may have veered in recent days into a dark area, owing to the sudden addition or exacerbation of at least five potential lethalities: monkeypox, lone star ticks, Detroit airport moths, taking a walk and, ever more dangerously, living in a country with more guns than people.

Without objection, or even with, I’ll take them in order:


Though in my view it looks a lot better on a death certificate than COVID or Well-Regulated Militia Fire, you’re probably not getting monkeypox, even though in recent weeks it has turned up in 12 countries where it is not endemic. Despite some initial hyper-cautious yammering by Joe Biden, you’d pretty much have to put on a leotard and wrestle someone with exposed monkeypox sores to contract monkeypox. Even then, it’s not especially contagious and likely wouldn’t be fatal.

The World Health Organization reports that in 92 cases that turned up last week in 12 non-endemic countries, most were in men who have sex with men and were seeking help in sexual care clinics. Further, a London adviser to the WHO described the outbreak as a random event that might be explained by sexual behavior associated with two recent raves in Europe.

Lone star ticks

So designated for the singular star-shaped marking on their backs, a bite from these little buggers can leave you with a meat allergy in a world where life without a periodic PNC Park footlong is hardly worth living. Endemic to Southern states, lone star ticks have been turning up in New York and New Jersey and even here and there in the Midwest.

Worse, “they kind of hunt you down,” disease ecologist Richard S. Ostfeld told Scientific American. “They actually run at you.”

Ostfeld stated further that currently, “The United States doesn’t have any kind of nationwide active tick surveillance program.”

I might be willing to volunteer for a fledgling U.S. Tick Surveillance Corps, but I’d have to see the uniform.

Detroit airport moths

I couldn’t determine why this story emerged only this week but apparently U.S. Customs officials say they successfully averted a threat to the country’s agriculture system with the discovery in some luggage of a moth that hasn’t been detected in this country since 1912.

While there are plenty of identifiable species who’ve felt like they’d been stuck in the Detroit airport since 1912, this one turned up in bags inbound from the Philippines last September. Analysis found larvae and pupae that eventually hatched into “very flashy” moths with black bristles.

“This discovery is a testament to the important mission of identifying foreign pests and protecting America’s natural resources,” the Border Patrol said in a statement.

And you found all of it, right? I’ll take your word on that. I have no choice.

Taking a walk

As an avid pedestrian, the news that the simple act of perambulation carries a risk not seen around here in 40 years was especially concerning this week. According to a piece in this space from the Post-Gazette’s own Ed Blazina, your chances of getting splattered into the afterlife by a badly operated vehicle on your stress-reducing daily walk went up 11.5 percent in 2021. In Pennsylvania, it went up 24.4 percent.


There are more guns out there than people, a fact specific to America, in part because of a peculiar slice of irrationality that convinced us we’re safer because of it.

The flip side of that irrationality has convinced us there are people out there — mostly liberals and Democrats — who are coming to take your guns. The people who are coming to take your guns, as they have for the past 50 years, are doing a terrible, terrible job.

So count your blessings, don’t worry so much about the monkeypox, avoid the lone star tick if at all possible, same for the Detroit airport, and walk inside the mall, wearing Kevlar, of course.

And what happened with those murder hornets anyway?