The rise of the killer viruses – Economic Times

At the time of writing this piece, the Corona virus has infected 45,000 people with over 1100 deaths and is being described as significantly more virulent than its previous cousin SARS (the current coronavirus has been named as SARS-CoV-2). While in the past our ancestors feared often-fatal bacterial diseases such as diphtheria, whooping cough and tetanus, today instead we are afflicted by epidemics of viral diseases such as dengue, chikunguniya and Japanese encephalitis. As the Corona scare pervades our world, it is natural to wonder why it and other deadly virus pandemics such as Ebola and Zika are on the upswing in the new millennium, even as the bacterial epidemics such as plague and cholera that ran rampant in past centuries are close to nonexistent today.

To further emphasize this phenomenon: in recent years, an epidemic of swine flu swept the states of Gujarat and Rajasthan with 33000 documented cases and over 2000 deaths. In previous years, the same virus (H1N1) had claimed the lives of 981 people in 2009 and 1,763 in 2010. Japanese Encephalitis, another viral infection causes an estimated 50,000 cases and 15,000 deaths annually (a mortality rate of 30%). In the early 2000s, the SARS and MERS virus infections claimed hundreds of lives in the South East of Asia as well as the Middle East respectively. These are not numbers to be taken lightly.

Here are some of the reasons for this recent proliferation of lethal viruses. As you will note, several of them have nothing to do with the virus and everything to do with us, the human race

Today healthcare is at a crossroads where legacy infections such as Tuberculosis while somewhat controlled, are not yet completely eradicated, while at the same time new viruses and superbugs are emerging in force. And if that were not enough, we have lifestyle diseases such as cancer, stroke and heart disease that are on the rise in terms of prevalence. We need to keep things in perspective that ultimately the solutions that can deliver the human race from such killers do not require rocket science/scientists but lie in disease prevention by profoundly simple and basic preventive measures such as sanitation, population control, and nutrition. Sadly, however, while we may talk about disease prevention until the cows come home, as the current Corona virus epidemic has highlighted, our actual practical approach to it at a global, national or system level is often divided, contentious and protectionist/nationalistic, much as in the way it is to climate change. Until we get our act together and work as a global community to effect change, we will unfortunately continue to be the victims of killer virus diseases.

DISCLAIMER : Views expressed above are the author's own.

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The rise of the killer viruses - Economic Times

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