The Earth we live in is no ordinary place. It has had and been having many historical glories and catastrophes. Wars, natural calamities, nature’s beauties are all the ingredients that make this planet what it is today. However, over billions of years, evolution has eradicated masses of species from this planet due to natural disaster or disease. Human survival is continuously threatened. The oldest forms of life on Earth were reported in the form of fossilized microorganisms discovered in Quebec, Canada, as early as 4.28 billion years ago, not long after the earth formed 4.4 billion years ago. Ever since, nothing has killed more humans than bacteria, viruses, or parasites, not even natural disasters or war. Some of us have only heard about the 14th Century plague in the West killing half of the world population, then followed by 200 million, later smallpox killing 300 million in the 20th Century and 1918 about of flu pandemic killing 100 million people more than the World War 1 while simultaneously occurring Malaria pandemic has killed half the population of the world. Still, it is a threat in some parts of the world. The HIV pandemic has killed an estimated 32 million so far and still hasn’t got a vaccine.
In the post penicillin era, innumerable bacterial infections continue to kill despite the advances in antibacterial medicines and early detection. Viruses have always been the culprit for any pandemic because they can evolve so fast. It is estimated there are 800 million viruses on every square meter of the planet. Most of these originate and spread from insects and animals. Life expectancy has increased only because of our continued efforts to combat
infectious diseases, better living conditions, and vaccines. This is despite us continuously fighting a war against non-communicable lifestyle diseases like cancer, heart attack, diabetes, accidents, and more.
The world after World War II has doubled in population and has more humans than what the earth can hold. Livestock has also increased tenfold in the last 3 decades, and hence the interaction between humans and animals in on the rise with virus crossing the eco-system from animal to man. The world has become a small place, and economic growth has allowed humans to live in dense communities in cities and also travel very fast. Every human who has or comes in touch with a virus is an incubator and carries the infection, multiples it in his body, and spreads it like wildfire to everyone he comes in contact with.
Just as the world is a big drama, in the stage then arrives Covid-19 that marks the return of a very old, and familiar, enemy through a new mutation. It reminds us that infectious diseases haven’t vanished and is still a threat to human survival. Pandemics like SARS, Ebola, Swine Flu have threatened us and fresh in some of our memories in the last 20 years. The 7.8 billion world population is vulnerable to infections all the time, and such outbreaks will happen more often than ever before. Covid-19 has already threatened an economic turndown of 3 trillion dollars, according to US experts.
Who is our enemy? Do we have to spend more money on healthcare or the military? Do we need to spend more to prevent countries from using bio war as a weapon? Today one-third of the world population is living in isolation. Is this going to be our new way of life? We need to learn and inculcate the new term “self-isolation”. The developed nations have run short of even masks for healthcare workers; some healthcare staff has quit because of the lack of protective gear in the Western countries. There is no place to bury dead bodies in Italy. Family members do not even get a chance to say a last ‘good-bye’ to their loved ones. Morgues are full of corpse. Health care workers are highly vulnerable to die, and this may deter people from this profession. Countries need to regulate livestock and what we eat. Human rights had to be redefined. The world cannot withstand serial pandemics.
Since the World Health Organization [WHO] declared officially on 11 March that the Corona Virus was a pandemic as of 27 March, there are 5,60,000 cases confirmed and 25,000 deaths from Covid-19 involving every single country in the world. We are just in the beginning to understand our ‘new enemy’. We are always fighting a known enemy, our neighbor, business competitor, work colleague, a political rival, fellow human, or sucked into fighting with our ideology, religion, egos, castle, and status when this Unknown Enemy is far more powerful and dangerous. We will win this war, but we need to change our strategy, seek peace within, learn to be disciplined, learn to be hygienic, the fitness of body and mind, build immunity within and co-exist together to fight our common “Unknown Enemy – Covid 19” and many more to come in the future.
This is a mission we can fight together. Let’s follow the simplest of lifestyle changes like constantly washing our hands, indoctrinate our children, neighbors, domestic helpers, and friends about the benefits of sanitizing and proper hygiene and, importantly, follow the rules and regulations issued by our nation’s authorities. Together, we can do this! We have done it in the past, and we can do it now.
Dr G Balamurali
Head of Spine Surgery
Consultant Spine & Neurosurgeon