In light of the COVID-19 outbreak, the nature of a pandemic has been flitting from mouth to mouth with interest not seen since the SARS or MERS outbreaks. A pandemic is a disease epidemic that has spread across a large region, for instance multiple continents, or worldwide and a common mistake is differentiating between a pandemic and an epidemic: epidemics refer to an event that has become out of control and is actively spreading uncontrollably in a usually smaller region than what a pandemic would affect. As of 15thApril 2020, the world is going through hard times trying the win the war against a pandemic-‘The Coronavirus’ or in technical terms ‘COVID-19’.
For many years now, the world has worked its way through countless pandemics, some more devastating than others but all leaving a mark in human history. Many people have died or lost loved ones but the most important thing to note is that all have suffered and inevitably all families had been scarred in one form or another. There have been a countlessnumber of people who have cried their share of tears in every pandemic- no matter who they are or what they do. The biggest problem faced is that many don’t understand one thing- that the top 1% of the world’s population that owns almost everything are almost as vulnerable as the bottom 1%- the only difference is that the richest can provide themselves with facilities and safety precautions which may or may not even work. Diseases do not choose. The very nature of a virus is to infect and replicate. Take the Prime Minister of the United Kingdom as well as the Royal Family for instance or even one of the richest billionaires, Donald Trump. These are examples of people who have spent hundreds of thousands trying to hide from the virus when, in actuality, it makes a very little difference as they still tested positive. I have listed one of the most “powerful” individuals in modern day society who have all fallen weak in the deadly hands of COVID-19.
Almost every news and media station has rightfully depicted this virus to be deadly and eachshow a clear representation of how many people have died from this virus, however, many fail to show the reader how there are positives that come with this global situation. Due to national and regional lockdowns, the emission of pollutants such as greenhouse gases have decreased drastically as there are less vehicles to pollute our environment. If I were to give 2examples of the environmental benefits of the virus, the canals in Venice, well-known for how murky the water is, is now clear enough to see fish which is a direct result from less canoes and other vehicles travelling in the water, but there is also a big drop in emissions in Germany where it is predicted about 50-100 million tonnes less carbon dioxide in 2020 due to fewer flights, fewer active cars, etc.
To summarise the message I am attempting to put across, this global pandemic has clearly frightened the vast majority of us with good reason, COVID- 19 has overtaken the number ofpeople killed and infected by both SARS (Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome) in 2002 as well as MERS (Middle- East Respiratory Syndrome) in 2012; however, we should all be very frightened of what might come next, possibly in the very near future. The shock of coronavirus brings its ripple effects: there is more attention on global health and hotly-debated topics such as antibiotic resistance, with over 650,000 people dying from it every year, the World Health Organisation (WHO) describes it to be ‘one of the biggest threats to global health’. Many say that the current day issue isn’t about the coronavirus, but instead, a much larger issue about something much, much worse; something predicted and expectedby experts and is estimated to kill 10 million people each and every year by 2050 – which is definitely not that far away. To put that into perspective, WHO has stated that cancer killed 9.6 million people in 2018. Even though the Coronavirus death toll or even the number of people at risk is immediately dwarfed by the number of people being killed by antibiotic resistance (as of now), many of us have never heard of this problem due to news channel algorithms on what “hot” and “popular news” they want to publish or influence a reader to see. A recent United Nations report famously claimed that “more and more common diseases, including respiratory and urinary tract infections as well as sexually transmitted diseases (STDs) are untreatable”. Issues such as sexually transmitted diseases and urinary tract infections (UTIs) are becoming increasingly resistant to any form of treatment and hence resist modern day medicine – causing a regression of medicine comparable to the early 20th Century. The figure I gave for how many people died from cancer in 2018 will theninevitably increase if this situation is not handled properly as the very famous and popular cancer fighting chemotherapy is and will be much more severely affected, as antibiotics are needed to fight infections as it destroys the white blood cells required to help fight these bacterial infections and diseases. Also, as dedicated and hard- working doctors and healthcare professionals are, they need to be constantly reminded to give antibiotics only if really required and patients need to be shown how a treatment plan that includes antibiotics should be properly finished. Zoonotic diseases are also becoming much more common (such as COVID- 19) and the CDC (Centre for Disease Control) even stated that scientists estimate that “more than 6 out of every 10 known infectious diseases in people can be spread from animals”, and “3 out of every 4 new or emerging infectious diseases in people come from animals”. It is also very important to note that according to the FDA (Food and Drug Administration), 80% of all antibiotics sold are used on animals, for industrial purposes to prevent infection in the poor living conditions and to fatten the animal (usually in the case of poultry) up.
To conclude, this pandemic which has grappled the world is a reminder to sleepy humanity, that we all need to work together and prepare for the next pandemic – aptly likened by George W. Bush to a “forest fire”. Human systems are often slow to act against such threats,as demonstrated by many European countries – their people, healthcare systems and economies now all suffering. Quicker responses and international reserve medical teams arethe first steps to becoming better equipped for the future, and as always, international cooperation and communication is of the utmost importance: for if you do not know your neighbour’s house is on fire, how can you put out the flames?