The events leading up to the current pandemic where almost 8,00,000 people have been affected look as if it has been staged by referring to the script of a movie or a story from a novel. It is unreal and people are almost in disbelief that something like this is happening with them. One of the hardest-hitting pandemic in the recent past this one has shown how vulnerable humans really are. But were we creating a recipe for disaster in our backyards? Let’s analyze some key facts and try to examine the turn of events in this round-up with reasons and proofs.
Our Enemy is evolving, are we?
The Novel Coronavirus is a new strain of the known family of viruses called the Coronavirus. It is known to exist for decades and primarily live as a pathogen on animals especially wild ones. This virus is unique in two ways. First, some of the people who contract this virus do not show symptoms or if they do the show, in some cases it takes up to 7-10 days by then these people would have spread the infection to hundreds if not thousands. You may have heard of this but it’s a pretty interesting anecdote, one lady he became known as patient 31 defied calls to get tested and instead went to a buffet and two packed church services where she ended up infecting over a thousand people according to the Korea Centre for disease and control prevention she may have single-handily have caused 80% of the virus cases in South Korea so that’s an example of what not to do and why it’s important to keep social interactions to a minimum.
Secondly, the virus strain found in Italy, France, and Spain is different from the one that is being detected in India. People who are wondering about the number of infections and death rates in India should consider that the virus is not that potent and is unable to attach itself to the ACE2 receptors in our cells.
Why animal to human transmission is so frequent?
The 1918 Spanish Flu outbreak that killed millions worldwide originated in a chicken, HIV has been transmitted to a human while culling a chimp for bushmeat, SARS that had a death rate of around 10% threatened a global pandemic came from bats supposedly, MERS with an astonishing death rate of 34% came from a spillover caused by the handling of camels and the Novel Coronavirus has said to be transmitted to humans by originating in a bat and then a Pangolin.
Shockingly, In China wildlife trade is a booming industry worth a whopping $74 billion. It would be wrong to say that China consumes these animals by itself. These are expensive animals we are talking about. The elites of China can only afford it. But you will be astonished to know that Europe is one of the transit and major contributor to this wildlife trade. The United States, Central America countries, South East Asian countries, Africa and China all are parties to this illegal trade.
To trap these animals in the wild poachers have to go deep into shrinking habitats. Some might get exposed to new viruses and pathogens then and there. If not, they might get infected while handling or culling these animals. In Chinese wet markets particularly the situation was grim. Just imagine a scene, few bats are kept in a cage, just below them a Burmese python and just below that an African Serval cat. In the wild, these animals may never interact but in such a close contact there is a chance that the viruses might jump because the animals live under compromised conditions are depression. They are most of the time spewing up blood and pus and animals that are in cages below get in contact with these fluids. A spillover is all but a possibility.
The handlers also do not practice self-hygiene and also use a common washroom. There they come in contact with so many people. A chance of an outbreak is very much a possibility. The Chinese government has been criticized many times and have been asked by International agencies to ban these markets, but nexus between criminal organizations is too strong and overwhelms Chinese authorities. But this time it seems the wildlife ban has been implemented in China and Vietnam.
What was China doing at the time of the outbreak?
China was not thinking straight, debunking the theory that China has engineered this virus for biological warfare, it is safe to say it has contributed to the progression of the outbreak by not considering it as a threat and containing it. The virus you see has RNA inside its outer covering made up of fat and is covered with protein spikes. It gains access through eyes, nose, and mouth when an infected person sneezes, talks or coughs. It is likely that the first person or the patient zero was present in the Wuhan wet market and got infected while selling shrimp. But the theory that it spilled over from a lab cannot be discarded. But we will never know as the Chinese government will never let this information leak out.
Anyhow, it all started when it was time to celebrate the Chinese new year last year and people were heading back to their respective hometowns. A message among concerned doctors started to circulate that one of them has come across an unknown virus that is infecting people and causing a SARS-like disease. The Chinese authority on noticing the messages removed the group and tried to evade the issue. But it was too late as the infection had already started among people.
For at least a month China denied that there is anything to worry about. The timing of the outbreak is an indicator that it could have been allowed to spread as during this time the biggest migration of people takes place in the world. Chinese people take almost 3 Billion trips domestically and internationally. People travel to and from China to celebrate the Chinese year. It very much is a case of negligence on the part of the Chinese authorities as travel from Wuhan was not suspended until the 23rd of January. The virus has said to be first diagnosed in late November 2019. It means that it was not contained for at least 2 months.
Taiwan at the end of December 2019 warned WHO about the outbreak and told that China might become a battleground in a few weeks, but as WHO does not recognize Taiwan as a member country dismissed all claims. WHO was sluggish in its attempts to warn China and the world about it. A simple question arises, wasn’t WHO our early warning system and a whistle-blower when it comes to outbreaks? China also did not follow outbreak procedures and did not inform the WHO in time. After China was able to flatten the curve, WHO applauded the Chinese efforts, I say if they both had done what was required, we would have never entered this situation in the first place.
How did China flatten the curve?
In comparison to countries in Europe and America’s China or Southeast Asian countries has more experience in containing an outbreak. The grim reminder of the SARS outbreak has enabled them to prepare for an early response system. Moreover, the government was able to communicate with the general public regarding what has to be done to contain the virus. Their people had no choice, they had to obey and it turned out quite good for them. Other countries like Hong Kong, Singapore, South Korea, Taiwan, and Japan also were well prepared and did not take things lightly, that is why they have also contained the virus and are slowly returning to their normal lives.
Why Italy, Spain, France and now the United States bear the brunt?
Culture, politics, behavior, health care facilities and response times can be attributed to the infection and death rates in Europe and America. But in my opinion, the mentality is the main reason why these counters are suffering. Even today after 2 months of daily deaths, authorities have to beat people off the streets of Spain and Italy. In the US, spring break has started and students are enjoying the beaches of infected areas. They are in denial and do not want to contain themselves. The government and Health care machinery are overwhelmed, but people are not paying heed. Have the morals and humanitarian values eroded completely in these countries?
Governments across Europe and the United States seem to worry more about the economy than its people. Popular in news, the United States made a statement that it would be up and running by Easter, but as the infection rates soared this became a distant dream. People are succumbing to death and the government can’t even press a panic button, it is just unthinkable. Like I said earlier, it is a mentality that is giving this outbreak the traction it needs to spread with a rage.
Ironically United States has the highest number of infections and it happens to be ranked 1st in the Global Pandemic Preparedness index. In fact many European countries like France, Spain, United Kingdom and Italy rank very high. If they were so prepared, then what went wrong? It happens to be their mindset and mentality.
The cure is distant but not by much
So for right now a vaccine is out of the question most experts think that’s at least a year away. So why is it so slow? Well, vaccines have to go through many stages before they’re deemed safe. I’ll give you one example to highlight why this takes time? Back in the 2000s, a few scientists were trying to make a sized vaccine in animals the vaccine-elicited immune response and produced antibodies like it was supposed to. So, that seemed good but upon reinfection, the immune system of the subject animals went into overdrive and killed the animal.
So we don’t want to rush something out like that to the entire human population that being said phase one trials have started in Seattle and are set to start in other places around the world because of these desperate warlike conditions scientists are skipping past the animal trials and going straight to human subjects. Although, this is very risky the scientists conclude that it’s necessary. While we wait for a vaccine treatment is needed for infected patients or even as a preventative measure to stop people from getting ill in the first place. I’m not going to go through all of them here but just for your information, there are at least 35 possible treatments that are showing promise if you’re interested in reading.
One that is standing above the rest hydroxychloroquine it comes in another form called chloroquine and we’ll be talking about both here these drugs are interesting not just because of their potential but also because of the controversy surrounding them from being hailed as a cure for the coronavirus to being blamed for the death of an elderly year couple who took COVID-19 treatment into their own hands it’s a bizarre story but let’s try and cut through the noise and figure out what’s going on here chloroquine has a long history during the 1600s in Peru the indigenous people extracted the bark from the cinchona plant they used this bark to fight chills and fever. In 1934 chloroquine was first identified in Western science and used for malaria since then it’s had a wide range of uses anything from HIV treatment to autoimmune diseases according to Lancet Infectious Diseases. There aren’t any significant detrimental side effects but recently this has come under debate, due to its patents getting over and non-profitability to use it, etc. But anyhow with combining various antibiotics, this drug is being administered in many countries and is saving lives.
Whatever the course of this pandemic maybe, doing the right things is important. Everyone should follow social distancing norms put forward by their respective governments and try to maintain personal hygiene. In no circumstances, we can beat this unseen enemy without preparedness and diligence. If we take things lightly or fall prey to fake news, I believe that this virus can rampage more cities and consume the lives of the innocent. The choice is yours, can you bear the burden of knowingly murdering your beloved?? Think!