Flights Of Fantasy
[ M Panging Pao ]
The recent threat of the coronavirus around the world has brought into focus the human fragility to contagious viruses and bacteria despite advances in medical sciences. The coronavirus originated in Wuhan province of China and spread across the world rapidly due the world being more closely connected because of advances in transportation network like flights, ships, etc. Many cities and areas of China are under total shutdown, ships are quarantined, and entire families are living in isolation due to the virus.
Deadly pandemics have occurred in this world since recorded history, caused by diseases like cholera, influenza, typhoid, small pox, measles, tuberculosis, leprosy, malaria, HIV/AIDS, Zika, Ebola, etc. It is estimated that smallpox was responsible for 500 million deaths worldwide till it was eradicated in 1979 by mass vaccination.
Likewise, during the 20th century, tuberculosis killed about 100 million people. Then there are other deadly common diseases in the Indian subcontinent, like dengue, Japanese encephalitis, Chikungunya, etc. Recent pandemics include SARS, swine flu, H1N1, coronavirus, etc. HIV/AIDS is a global pandemic, killing more than 36 million people since 1981. SARS affected 26 countries and resulted in more than 8000 infections in 2003. Dengue is still widespread in India with lakhs of persons infected, leading to hundreds of fatalities.
Swine flu or H1N1 affected many parts of India in 2009, infecting thousands of patients. Japanese encephalitis also affected many areas, including the Northeast, killing over 600 people since 2014. Similarly, there was a Nipah virus outbreak in Kerala which claimed many lives.
One reason for the recurrence of many diseases periodically is antibiotics resistance caused by rampant use of antibiotics, due to which more virulent strains are created. Other reasons for spread of contagious diseases are dirty, unhygienic environment due poor garbage disposal, which are breeding grounds for microorganisms and bacteria. Others include habits like hand-wash techniques, unhygienic washroom etiquette, cooking methods, sneezing/coughing techniques, sharing towels, etc.
Contagious diseases quickly spread globally due to globalization and close knit world connected by flights, ships, roads, rails, etc. The electronic, print and social media are also responsible for panic reactions by inflating bad news and painting doomsday scenarios.
One conspiracy theory alleges that the coronavirus spread is another biological warfare project gone wrong. Biological warfare is part of military operations and experimented by major militaries of the world. The coronavirus may have been caused by leakage and spread of one biological warfare project in China!
Viral and bacteria borne diseases can be treated and controlled by research and development in medical science. However, there is another deadly virus omnipresent in this world, ie, human beings. Humans are taking the role of a deadly virus by abetting global warming, deforestation, conflicts/wars, based on religion, race, etc, eradicating many plant and animal species by rampant hunting, fishing, etc. Any vaccines for this virus called human being? (The contributor is retired Group Captain, Indian Air Force)