GYAN K.B. FRANCIS, Social Analyst.
In the history of pandemics and survival of humanity, there have been series of plagues and viral outbreaks that has threatened the continuous existence of humankind, installing fear and panic.
There have been three great global pandemics (plagues) recorded; 541, 1347, and 1894 CE, each time resulted in high rate of global mortality of both mankind and animals. On countless occasions, plague irrevocably changed the social and economic fabric of society, which is no different from what we are experiencing now. The new order – it is arguably a fact that, this is a time in our history we can say “together we fall but divided we stand”, hence social distancing. How ironic!
There have been numbers of pandemic diseases of which most of them are eradicated whereas others are under control, such as smallpox and tuberculosis, HIV/AIDS and even Ebola. The devastating impact of the Black Death pandemic (also known as The Plague), which killed an estimated 75–200 million people in the 14th century cannot be overemphasized.
First identified in Democratic Republic of Congo in 1976, HIV/AIDS has truly proven itself as a global pandemic, killing more than 36 million people since 1981. Nevertheless, the statistical peak values were recorded between 2005-2012. Currently there are between 31 and 35 million people living with HIV, the vast majority of those are in Sub-Saharan Africa, where about 5% of the population is infected, roughly 21 million people.
As awareness has grown, new treatments have been developed that make HIV far more manageable, and many of those infected go on to live productive lives. Between 2005 and 2012 the annual global deaths from HIV/AIDS dropped from 2.2 million to 1.6 million. Between 2000 and 2018, new HIV infections fell by 37% and HIV-related deaths fell by 45%, with 13.6 million lives saved due to ART.
H3N2 INFLUENZA VIRUS
A category 2 Flu pandemic sometimes referred to as “the Hong Kong Flu,” The 1968 flu pandemic was caused by the H3N2 strain of the Influenza A virus, a genetic offshoot of the H2N2 subtype. From the first reported case on July 13, 1968 in Hong Kong, it took only 17 days before outbreak of the virus was reported in Singapore and Vietnam, and within three months it had spread to The Philippines, India, Australia, Europe, and the United States. While the 1968 pandemic had a comparatively low global mortality rate (0.5%), it still resulted in the deaths of more than a million people, including 500,000 residents of Hong Kong, approximately 15% of its population at the time. Cause by influenza virus and had a death toll of over 1 million.
ASIAN FLU (1956-1958)
Between 1956 – 1958, Asian flu was a pandemic of Influenza A of the H2N2 subtype that originated in China in 1956 and lasted until 1958. In its two-year spree, Asian flu spread from the Chinese province of Guangzhou to Singapore, Hong Kong, and the United States. Estimates for the death toll of the Asian flu vary depending on the source, but the World Health Organization places the final tally at approximately 2 million deaths, 69,800 of those in the United States alone.
FLU PANDEMIC (1918)
Between 1918 and 1920, a disturbingly deadly outbreak of influenza tore across the globe, infecting over a third of the world’s population and ending the lives of 20 – 50 million people. Of the 500 million people who were infected in the 1918 pandemic, the mortality rate was estimated to be 10- 20%, with up to 25 million deaths in the first 25 weeks alone.
What separated the 1918 flu pandemic from other influenza outbreaks was the victims; where influenza had always previously only killed juveniles and the elderly or already weakened patients, it had begun striking down hardy and completely healthy young adults while leaving children and those with weaker immune systems still alive.
SIXTH CHOLERA PANDEMIC (1910-1911)
Like its five previous incarnations, the Sixth Cholera Pandemic originated in India where it killed over 800,000, before spreading to the Middle East, North Africa, Eastern Europe and Russia. The Sixth Cholera Pandemic was also the source of the last American outbreak of Cholera (1910 – 1911).
American health authorities, having learned from the past, quickly sought to isolate the infected, and in the end only 11 deaths occurred in the United States. By 1923 Cholera cases had been cut down dramatically, although it remained a continuous epidemic in India.
FLU PANDEMIC (1889-1890)
Originally the “Asiatic Flu” or “Russian Flu” as it was called, was a strain thought to be an outbreak of the Influenza A virus subtype H2N2, although recent discoveries have instead found the cause to be Influenza A virus subtype H3N8.
The first cases were observed in May 1889 in three separate and distant locations, Bukhara in Central Asia (Turkestan), Athabasca in northwestern Canada, and Greenland.
Rapid population growth of the 19th century, specifically in urban areas, only helped the flu spread, and before long the outbreak had spread across the globe. Though it was the first true epidemic in the era of bacteriology and much was learned from it. In the end, the 1889 – 1890 Flu Pandemics claimed the lives of over a million people.
THIRD CHOLERA PANDEMIC (1852–1860)
Generally considered the most deadly of the seven cholera pandemics, the third major outbreak of Cholera in the 19th century lasted from 1852 to 1860. Like the first and second pandemics, the Third Cholera Pandemic originated in India, spreading from the Ganges River Delta before tearing through Asia, Europe, North America and Africa and ending the lives of over a million people.
British physician John Snow, while working in a poor area in London, tracked cases of cholera and eventually succeeded in identifying contaminated water as the means of transmission for the disease. Unfortunately the same year of his discovery (1854) went down as the worst year of the pandemic, in which 23,000 people died in Great Britain.
THE BLACK DEATH (1346-1353)
From 1346 to 1353 an outbreak of the Plague ravaged Europe, Africa, and Asia, with an estimated death toll between 75 and 200 million people. The plague was assumed to have originated from Asia; it most likely jumped continents via the fleas living on the rats that frequently lived aboard merchant ships. Ports being major urban centers at the time were the perfect breeding ground for the rats and fleas, and thus the insidious bacterium flourished, devastating three continents in its wake.
PLAGUE OF JUSTINIAN (541-542)
Estimated to have killed perhaps half the population of Europe, the Plague of Justinian was an outbreak of the bubonic plague that afflicted the Byzantine Empire and Mediterranean port cities, killing up to 25 million people in its yearlong reign of terror.
Generally regarded as the first recorded incident of the Bubonic Plague, the Plague of Justinian left its mark on the world, killing up to a quarter of the population of the Eastern Mediterranean and devastating the city of Constantinople, where at its height it was killing an estimated 5,000 people per day and eventually resulting in the deaths of 40% of the city’s population.
ANTONINE PLAGUE (165 AD)
Also known as the Plague of Galen, the Antonine Plague was an ancient pandemic that affected Asia Minor, Egypt, Greece, and Italy and is thought to have been either Smallpox or Measles, though the true cause is still unknown. This unknown disease was brought back to Rome by soldiers returning from Mesopotamia around 165AD; unknowingly, they had spread a disease which would end up killing over 5 million people and decimating the Roman army.
WHAT ABOUT COVID-19 (THE NOVEL CORONAVIRUS)?
Beginning in December 2019, in the region of Wuhan, China, a new “novel” coronavirus began appearing in human beings. It has been named Covid-19, a shortened form of “coronavirus disease of 2019.” This new virus spreads incredibly quickly among people, due to the fact that it is new and no one is immune to it.
While it was initially seen to be an epidemic in China, the virus spread globally in less than 3 months. The WHO declared Covid-19 a pandemic in March 2020, and by the end of that month, the world saw more than a half-million people infected and nearly 30,000 deaths.
The infection rate in the United States, Russia, Italy and other nations was still spiking. And within the first quarter of 2020, Covid-19 pandemic had infected over a million people and had claimed over 200 thousand lives.
With the corona virus pandemic, people around the globe have become more aware of the best practices during a pandemic, from careful hand washing to social distancing.
Countries across the world declared mandatory stay-at-home measures, closing schools, businesses, and public places. Hundreds of companies and many more independent researchers began working on tests, treatments and vaccines. The push for the human race to overcome the pandemic became the primary concern in the world.
The outcome of the Covid-19 pandemic is impossible to predict, much because attempted clinical trials of proposed antiviral drugs have proven futile in April 2020.
Moreover, a fastest track vaccine clinically approved can only be available after a year.
Where lays the fate of humanity?
With reference to the already experienced pandemic, I can confidently tell the world that Covid-19 cannot bring human race to an unexpected halt.
It is the bondage of fear and death in the absence of conscience treatment or clinically approved vaccine, which has given this virus power over the earth as at today.
Once a vaccine capable of controlling or curing the novel Covid-19 is found, the world will surely return to normalcy.
Before then let’s all make conscious effort to stay home and stay safe because it is only when we have more contacts with people and surfaces that the virus spreads at a faster rate, but in any case, whether it passes through you, by you or with you depends on you. Because there is no magic bullet yet.
Observe precautionary measures of hand washing in the absence of hand sanitizer and properly wear our nose masks.
Be assured, that this one too shall pass!!!