Pandemics happen when a new virus emerges to infect people and can spread between people sustainably. Because there is little to no pre-existing immunity against the new virus, it spreads worldwide. Viruses are microscopic organisms that can infect animals, plants, fungi, and even bacteria. They are considered the most abundant biological entity on the planet. A virus exists only to reproduce. When it reproduces, its offspring spread to new cells and new hosts. Viruses may transmit from person to person, and from mother to child during pregnancy or delivery. They can spread through touch, exchanges of saliva, coughing, or sneezing, sexual contact, contaminated food or water and so on.
Some viruses can live on an object for some time, so if a person touches an item with the virus on their hands, the next person can pick up that virus by touching the same object. Whether it’s smallpox, common cold, measles, chickenpox, and shingles, hepatitis, herpes, polio, rabies, Ebola, HIV, there is no cure for a virus, but vaccination can prevent them from spreading. If there is no cure, how do people recover? When you get a virus, you may not always get sick from it. Your immune system may be able to fight it off. For most viral infections, treatments can only help with symptoms while you wait for your immune system to fight off the virus. This means you’re more likely to survive a viral disease if you simply live a healthy lifestyle; a balanced diet, exercise, sleep, personal hygiene.
Humanity has come a long way and has survived the pandemic outbreak of new diseases which then had no known cause and treatment. From cholera to tuberculosis all the way to ebola, towns have been wiped out and cities have been quarantined in the wake of such calamities. Consider the Justinian Plague in 541 A.D. which claimed up to 10,000 lives per day. People were dying so fast that unburied bodies were eventually stacked inside buildings or left in the open. In the end, more than 25 million people died. What about the second greatest pandemic; the Black Death? Those were the Dark Ages of human history. The plague lasted half a decade and wiped out about 50 million people – more than half the population of Europe at the time – as people were buried in mass graves. The Third Plague Pandemic happened not long ago. Claiming over 15 million lives, it erupted in 1855 in the Chinese province of Yunnan. The disease traversed the globe over the next several decades, and by the beginning of the 20th century, infected rats traveling on steamships had carried it to all six inhabited continents. Not to talk of the Great Plague of London, the Great Plague of Marseille and the Italian Plague of 1629. Did I forget to mention the infamous H1N1 virus that killed one-tenth of the world’s population from 1918-1920?
On March 11, 2020, the World Health Organization declared coronavirus a pandemic. The coronavirus disease 2019 (or COVID-19 for short) is affecting 157 out of 195 countries. So far, there has been 167,682+ cases of coronavirus. 6,456 lives have been claimed and 76,598 have recovered. This means that the viral disease has a 3.4% mortality rate, that is, there is a 97% chance you’d survive after receiving medical treatment if you contract the disease. The symptoms include runny nose, headache, dry cough, sore throat, fever, a general feeling of being unwell and difficulty in breathing. Human coronaviruses can sometimes cause lower-respiratory tract illnesses, such as pneumonia or bronchitis. The virus primarily spreads between people in a way similar to influenza, via respiratory droplets from coughing or sneezing. There are four main sub-groupings of coronaviruses, known as alpha, beta, gamma, and delta. Human coronaviruses were first identified in the mid-1960s. The seven coronaviruses that can infect people are:
- 229E (alpha coronavirus)
- NL63 (alpha coronavirus)
- OC43 (beta coronavirus)
- HKU1 (beta coronavirus)
- MERS-CoV (the beta coronavirus that causes Middle East Respiratory Syndrome, or MERS)
- SARS-CoV (the beta coronavirus that causes the severe acute respiratory syndrome, or SARS)
- SARS-CoV-2 (the novel coronavirus that causes coronavirus disease 2019, or COVID-19).
Up until December 2019, we only knew of six coronaviruses.
Coronaviruses are respiratory syndromes and they attack the lungs. Sometimes coronaviruses that infect animals can evolve and make people sick and become a new human coronavirus. Three recent examples of this are 2019-nCoV, SARS-CoV, and MERS-CoV. Coronaviruses are a large family of viruses that are common in people and many different species of animals, including camels, cattle, cats, and bats. The sequences from U.S. patients are similar to the one that China initially posted, suggesting a likely single, recent emergence of this virus from an animal reservoir. Early on, many of the patients at the epicenter of the outbreak in Wuhan, Hubei Province, China had some link to large seafood and live animal markets, suggesting animal-to-person spread. Later, a growing number of patients reportedly did not have exposure to animal markets, indicating person-to-person spread. Community spread means some people have been infected and it is not known how or where they became exposed.
How come it’s spread so quickly throughout the world? Because people interact with people. In 2017 there was an average of 9,728 planes in the sky at any given time, carrying an average of 1,270,406 people. Last year, a record 1.4 billion people traveled by air from one country to another and an estimated 2 billion people are expected to do so this year. Since the world has advanced in technology – speedy networking, speedy Wi-Fi, speedy transactions, speedy communications, and speedy travels – the world has also become more and more vulnerable in spreading any new negative outbreak. Diseases can now travel as fast as humans travel across the world. More so, it’s equally faster to hear news from the around the world. Though this makes people more aware and precautious, any empire and kingdom understand that the last thing to do is cause panic among citizens.
Why Do We Fear? When you study history and you see the numbers who had died because of a disease outbreak, they just look like numbers. 50 million people. 25 million people. 15 million people. Though there are far deadlier diseases than coronavirus like malaria, cholera, stroke, cancer and the likes, people are naturally afraid of the unknown. Coronavirus is a new disease with little to no knowledge of its cause, why it so easily spreads and how to vaccinate people against it. Not just that; how long will it continue to plague us and how many lives will it claim before it eventually takes a downward path? Even if it claims just 3% of its victims, no one wants to be a statistic. If I gave you 100 pieces of yam balls and I said 3 of them could kill you, you’d simply avoid eating any of them. The danger is only dangerous if it’s imminent.
Why Shouldn’t You Fear? Because there are a billion ways to die. Thousands of diseases have no cure. This is not the last major outbreak we’re going to see. Plus we are all going to die anyway and life is too short to live in fear and panic. Something must kill a man. As Baz Luhrmann rightly said, a life lived in fear is a life half lived. This doesn’t mean we should live life anyhow. It means that life boils down to the simple stuff all the time. There is a pandemic and you can prevent contraction by simply washing your hands, drinking more water, keeping the environment clean and keeping good personal hygiene. This cannot be done in isolation since one bad apple can spoil the whole bunch. One sick individual in our homes can infect all of us with the virus. So look out for your neighbor’s well-being as well. Plagues do not stop with quarantining. They only stop after a corporate fight. So let’s mobilize ourselves and keep ourselves clean, not in any way paranoid of other people around us. Let’s go viral with living healthy lifestyles and keeping clean environments. The old adage still remains true; Cleanliness is next to Godliness.
There’s hope ❤️