We the humans of Earth are going through days of unprecedented and absolute pandemonium. Covid-19, a novel coronavirus that’s first reported in late 2019 from Wuhan, central China has now spread to almost every corner of the Globe.
In Italy, the death rate has outstripped even that of China. Covid-19's advance is so rapid and its impact so ruthless that it has effectively shut down Planet Earth in a matter of only a few weeks.
The end is far from near and the worst is yet to come.
It’s Like Nature Is Taking Its Revenge
The source of the virus is yet unknown but scientists believe it possibly transited from animals to people.
That’s not difficult to understand.
Animals are older than humans in the evolutionary process and therefore have adapted to the viruses’ presence in their genes.
Humans as yet don't have the adaptive genetic make-up or tolerance for an immune response like animals, therefore the novel coronavirus could quickly assume pandemic proportions, showing neither mercy nor discrimination in its choice of human victims.
Everyone is a potential victim. The elderly who are already crippled with a fragile immune system are the most vulnerable. That's the main reason why Italy has the highest mortality rate: its ageing people - the median age of its population is 45.4 years.
But even younger people with more robust immune systems are not invincible says WHO Director-General. They too need to take measures to stay safe from the disease.
The World Health Organisation (WHO) describes the coronavirus pandemic as the "defining global health crisis of our time" because it has really brought every country down to its knees.
The need of the hour, therefore, is to look after our physical and mental health. Until the crisis is clearly behind us every other activity, economic or otherwise, has to take a backseat.
What Then is Coronavirus?
Coronaviruses are a large family of viruses of which the common cold virus is a prominent member. Corona is Latin for crown and these viruses got that name because they have crown-like spikes of protein on their surfaces with which they embed upon human cells.
Since the 1960s Coronaviruses (CoV) have been identified as human pathogens. They are zoonotic in nature, meaning they spread from animals to humans and to other animals as well. Bats are the major reservoirs of CoV but other animals are now found to play host.
It was Dennis Carroll, the man who saw the pandemic coming, who first predicted the threat of what calls a "zoonotic spillover", a transmission of pathogens from nonhumans to humans. He said it was going to be a global event affecting every community. That was ten years ago.
The current coronavirus outbreak, scientists now confidently say, originally came from a virus inherent in bats. Humans were actually not the natural hosts of these viruses. It is only due to the handling of animals – as specifically happened in the Wuhan live wet and wild animal market – that the virus could have jumped into other animals like the suspected civet cat, pangolin or snake and then finally, ended up in human beings.
Because in a wet market you’ll see every kind of animal in a cage in a way you’ll never see them in the wild.
There's another side to the story.
Never before was anything seen as in the past one hundred years. Five billion people were added to the one billion that was there only a century ago. Scientific discoveries, explorations and technical advances tore through every field at a frenetic pace. With the increase in population came demands for not only amenities but also more food —animals for food.
Humans have encroached so much into animal spaces that even viruses which were earlier natural residents of animals have now learned to adopt human beings as their best hosts. And animals are a huge reservoir of pathogens to which humans have never been exposed.
Although throughout history there been a number of epidemics and pandemics, nothing seems as phenomenal as what’s seen in the recent past. In this century itself, three major CoV outbreaks happened including the current one:
- 2002-2003 - Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome or SARS-CoV-1 originated in China and affected 8096 people. It resulted in 774 deaths across 29 countries (case: fatality ratio = 10%)
- 2012 – Middle-east Respiratory Syndrome or MERS-CoV originated in Saudi Arabia and from camels and affected 2494 people across 27 countries. Resultant deaths was 858 death (case:fatality ratio=35%).
- 2019-2020 – Covid - 19 is still prevailing and as on 21-03-2020 has 234,073 confirmed cases across 176 countries with 9840 deaths reported so far (case: fatality ratio = 4.3%). Covid-19 or novel coronavirus disease 2019 is also called SARS-CoV-2 or SARS-nCoV.
From the ratio of cases and deaths, we can see that covid-19 isn’t as lethal as the other two even though it’s more widespread.
There are other pandemics as well: the 2005 avian flu, the second H5N1 pandemic of 2009 and the Ebola pandemic of 2014.
Then there is HIV and Zika. All of them have one trait in common: they are zoonotic.
The disturbing point is: once that virus has jumped from animal to human, it quickly spreads throughout the world through air travellers.
So, Should We Worry About Coronavirus?
We definitely should.
Lower mortality rate notwithstanding, it's the high transmissibility that's a cause for concern.
According to a report in the New England Journal of Medicine, Scientists have discovered that the covid-19 virus remains detectable on surfaces for up to several hours. For example, on:
- Aerosols – 3 hours
- Copper – 4 hours
- Cardboard – 24 hours
- Plastic and stainless steel – 2 to 3 days
This clearly shows that people stand the chance of ingesting the virus from the air or from contaminated surfaces such as the above. Once infected they can easily pass on the virus to others.
Another worry is that the coronavirus-19 remains asymptomatic for several days. The infected person may not know he or she has contracted covid-19 until the symptoms show up after the incubation period of 5.1 median days according to a new study. During that period he/she may have unwittingly infected hundreds or even thousands of others.
So, the 14-day quarantine period for monitoring is quite reasonable. That’s the reason the health advisory says that all those who have travelled to the affected countries and were in contact with infected persons should stay in quarantine for at least 14 days.
If the symptoms appear as follows:
- Difficulty in breathing
These persons will then need to go for tests to determine whether they have the disease or not.
Once confirmed, even the asymptomatic family members and others who are in contact with the infected person must follow all protocols in the same way.
Such protocols shouldn’t be taken lightly because these viruses have the ability to mutate. And covid-19’s lower pathogenicity can make it turn seasonal. It might go quiet for now and surface again a few months later.
Hopefully, by that time a vaccine’s out.
The Outcome of Treatment in Coronavirus Positive Cases
According to WHO statistics available so far, of people who tested positive with covid-19
- 81% developed mild or uncomplicated illnesses
- 14% developed severe illness requiring oxygen therapy
- 5% needed intensive care, including ventilation, with the most common diagnosis being severe pneumonia
- Older patients face increased risk because of impaired immunity and presence of other health problems such as cardiovascular diseases, diabetes mellitus and other major health issues. Covid-19 increases risk of severe disease for them which is the reason for higher mortality in their age brackets.
Even as the race to develop the anti-covid19 vaccine is on, the watchword is to keep the momentum going and release our grip in containing the spread of the disease.
Source: National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases' Montana facility at Rocky Mountain Laboratories, USA
How do We Help Tackle Covid-19 Emergency?
By following the government advisories strictly and cooperating with the medical authorities. The simplest and only effective way to flatten the curve of coronavirus and prevent community spread of covid-19, or any contagious disease, is to strictly adhere to protocols by the government’s health experts.
These 12 Guidelines Below should be of Help:
- Firstly, avoid (mis)information. Please shun it like the plague itself unfounded and misleading posts from the social media or unofficial sources. Take great care to only use data and information that come from the government health ministry and authenticated sources.
- Follow advisories contained in this site.
- Wash hands frequently with soap and water. Follow WHO advisory here.
- Avoid touching nose, mouth, eyes and surfaces.
- Avoid shaking hands. If you have to wish someone a “Namaste” is perfect.
- Practice respiratory hygiene, i.e. cover your mouth when you cough or sneeze
- Avoid high-risk behaviour. Anyone who is suspected of having covid-19 should not mingle around else he/she will become a super-spreader. There was a reported incidence recently of super-spreading by a covid-19 suspected patient leaving the hospital and attending a wedding, posing a grave risk to everyone. Such behaviour is highly irresponsible because it may lead to transmitting the disease to a large number of people.
- Practice social distancing. The health ministry has already issued an advisory on this asking for schools and institutions, non-essential offices to shut down or minimise/stagger attendance. People are to work from home and refrain from congregating so as to control the spread of the disease.
- Keep away from congregations: markets and malls, restaurants and any public or private places where people gather at least to the extent of the government advisory. Staying at home and working from home is the best possible measure.
- Contact tracing is a must to identify, report and monitor individuals who may have had contact with an infectious person. A well-known case of this is of the American tourist who tested positive in Bhutan after travelling to several locations in Assam, coming into contact with many.
- Self-quarantine or refraining from or limiting contact by staying away from people for the required period of 14 days during the outbreak is one effective way to break the spread.
- Report to hospital/health authorities only when necessary. No need to panic. Follow this
What Else Should We do to Keep Coronavirus at Bay?
The next best thing we can do is eat well and sensibly. Include natural foods that are proven to be:
- Immune system boosting
- Heart protective
- Liver protective
At Zizira too, we care for health and well-being – yours and ours and the ecosystem's, which is the reason we bring this article for you. Do you also have something to share? Feel free to comment.
To conclude, we remind ourselves with the words of WHO Director-General, "COVID-19 is taking so much from us. But it’s also giving us something special – the opportunity to come together as one humanity – to work together, to learn together, to grow together."
We can even 'gift' ourselves one precious opportunity: give up our colonial mindsets and live in harmony with nature!