In October 2017, Erin Welsh, Ph.D., and Dr. Erin Allmann Updyke, Ph.D., launched their podcast “This Podcast Will Kill You” in hopes of creating a fun and inclusive space to learn about science and infectious diseases.
Welsh and Updyke, who both have extensive knowledge in the field of epidemiology, wanted to use their knowledge to educate the public about diseases in a digestible format.
Since 2017, Welsh and Updyke have recorded over 100 episodes of “This Podcast Will Kill You” and have built a dedicated fanbase.
On July 12, 2022, the Erins tackled the latest public health concern sweeping the nation, monkeypox.
According to the CDC, people infected with monkeypox may develop a rash on or near the genitals. The rash can also appear on other areas of the body like the “hands, feet, chest, face, or mouth.”
The CDC reported that some patients experience other symptoms such as fever, chills, swollen lymph nodes, exhaustion, muscle aches, and respiratory symptoms.
According to the CDC, symptoms usually appear within three weeks after exposure to the virus.
Heavy had the chance to chat with the Erins about their hit podcast and their recent episode on monkeypox.
Here’s what you need to know:
The Erins Chat About ‘This Podcast Will Kill You’
Heavy: What inspired you to start the podcast?
Erin Welsh: I think it was a long time summer of multiple scientific conferences. Erin [Updyke] and I were both in our last year of our Ph.D.’s at the University of Illinois and we had, at that point, gotten a little burnt out by not just our subject matter, but also the way that we were talking about science. The way we were talking about our work, which was to very select audiences [and] other academics. Everyone in the same room just talking about science like, ‘Well, the research suggests X, Y, and Z.’
We were reflecting on this long summer of conferences one day at a picnic and we were just kind [of] like, ‘Gosh, why can’t we talk about disease and these things casually like we used to?’ We also thought, this information we’re presenting, is it [going to] go beyond this room of other academics? Who else is going to hear this information?
I don’t exactly remember how we got on the subject, but we were like, ‘Man, we [want to] talk about disease in a fun way again. How do we do that? What about a podcast?’
Heavy: How do you approach researching a topic?
Erin Updyke: Our primary source is probably Google Scholar, [which] is a really great resource for finding peer-reviewed articles. We primarily use peer-reviewed primary research articles [and Erin Welsh] uses books a lot.
One of the things we do, in addition to making sure we’re using the most up-to-date and accurate peer-reviewed scientific information, is we also do our research in isolation, so we each research our own parts of each episode. That way, we are not learning what the other person is going to be presenting. We are learning both while we’re researching but also from each other during the process.
Heavy: How did you come up with the idea of the Quarantini? Why did you want to include that segment in the show?
Erin Welsh: That was actually on the day when we said, ‘Let’s have a podcast. Let’s call it This Podcast Will Kill You.’ I think, really, the clincher was the Quarantini.
On that day, when we decided we wanted to do a podcast, we thought, ‘Ok, we have to define our audience,’ which we wanted to be as broad as possible. Anyone who had the slightest interest in science.
So, how do we present this information? Biology, history, current events, kind of like a big picture view of a certain topic and then the cherry on top was, ‘Well, what’s kind of the fun thing that we can do in every single episode?’ and that was the Quarantini- the themed cocktail.
We decided to include it because it was fun. It was a fun idea. It was fun to come up with names. Then, starting I believe in our second season, we began to include nonalcoholic recipes that we call Placeboritas for people who do not drink alcohol or [for people] who drink alcohol but [want to] make a nice nonalcoholic drink at some point.
Heavy: Do you have a favorite episode you’ve recorded?
Erin Updyke: One of my favorite [episodes] is our birth control episode. I think it [is]one of our most important [episodes] and, for me, most fun episodes that we’ve done.
Erin Welsh: One of my [favorite episodes] is the endometriosis episode. That was a particularly interesting one to research because we got to dive into the history of how, historically, endometriosis was viewed as this hysteria condition, this mental manifestation of disease.
Sort of this long entrenched history of how women are not heard or listened to by medical providers. It [has gotten] a lot better but it is still a huge problem and endometriosis really illustrates how it is such a pervasive problem today.
Questions for the Erins About Monkeypox
Heavy: In your July 12 episode on monkeypox, you talk about the name being controversial. Can you explain why the name is controversial?
Erin Welsh: There are really two facets to why the name is controversial. There [is] the name monkeypox itself, which is a misnomer because the natural host is not monkeys. Monkeypox virus was first discovered in monkeys at a research facility, [that is] why it got the name monkeypox. But the natural reservoir really appears to be some wild rodents. I’m not sure if the exact species is known, or if it [is] multiple species.
It’s long been practice by the [World Health Organization] to not name diseases after animals, after places, after people, after jobs, because it can cause stigma. You can imagine a situation where [it is] like, ‘Oh, well, if monkeypox suggests that it’s carried by monkeys, so lets kill all the monkeys.’ First of all, that [is] not going to solve the problem, and secondly, [that is] incredibly misleading and stigmatizing
Erin Updyke: There’s two different clades of the monkeypox virus and they [are] currently named after the locations where they were discovered. The Central African or Congo-based clade and the West African Clade. In general, it is not good practice to name viruses or clades of viruses after their place names because not only can that lead to stigma of those places or people from those places, but it also is a bit of a confusing aspect because it would make you think, ‘Oh, this virus only circulates in this area.’ Clearly, right now, we have a virus that is spreading worldwide at a very rapid pace and is not confined to the location that the clade is named after.
Those are some of the main reasons why the name is being reconsidered.
Heavy: In the July 12 episode, you discuss the differences between smallpox and monkeypox? What are the major differences?
Erin Welsh: There are several. One of the biggest [differences] is that monkeypox, at this point, does seems to be much less severe [and] cause much less severe disease than smallpox. That’s really important.
I think the other thing that’s really crucial is that smallpox infects only humans. Monkeypox infects a number of different species, which makes [controlling the virus] a little more difficult. We were able to eradicate smallpox by vaccinating humans, but since monkeypox can exist in other animals, spillover events where people can become infected from wild animals can continue to happen.
Heavy: How worried should people be about monkeypox?
Erin Updyke: Overall, I think that this is spreading at a rate that is very concerning. In several public health districts it’s been declared a local public health emergency and the World Health Organization has also declared it a global public health emergency.
I think this is something that is worrisome and concerning and it is likely spreading through populations that maybe think they are not at risk. It needs to be on everyone’s radar.
For more information on “This Podcast Will Kill You” visit their website at thispodcastwillkillyou.com