THE NEXT PANDEMIC
In 1964, when Dr June Almeida looked into her electron microscope at her laboratory in St Thomas’s Hospital in London, she saw a kind of human virus that has not been documented before — a new kind of virus with a corona(crown). The image of this virus she took which was published a few years later led to the taxonomy of the Coronavirus pathogen family. Fifty-five years down the line, a novel Coronavirus identified as SARS-COv-2 was reported in Wuhan, China and the delay in responding to this impending threat of an epidemic led to a global infection of this disease.
It has been observed that over 75% of diseases affecting humans in the 21st century are Zoonotic (from animals) and sadly, COVID-19 which has gained international recognition within a few weeks of its discovery is just a tip of the iceberg. As at the time of writing this piece, there have been over 100 million reported cases of COVID-19 worldwide and the figures continues to grow tremendously.
Scientists who are trying to keep up with the pace and track down any possible epidemic that may become a global threat have observed that major causes of this virus affecting humans are Human Induced — Climate Change being the major player. Since the early 20th century, the earth climate has changed so dramatically and suddenly, a change that hasn’t occurred in thousands of years. This change however is a serious threat not only to human continuous existence on the planet but to every other life in and on it.
The next pandemic is right here under our very nose, but just as our eyes naturally ignore the nose even though it is seen anytime it is opened, we aren’t paying much attention to the imminent danger threatening our existence. COVID-19 may have had over a 100 million reported cases, but it has a mortality rate of less than 10%. In fact, other pathogens in the Coronavirus family such as MERS are even more deadly. Viruses would continue to mutate and increasingly become more difficult to handle due to climate change.
Global warming induced by man’s activities has resulted in climate change, what we are now experiencing is the ripples effect of our actions. The next pandemic has seated too long on a keg of gun powder and it is about to explode before our very eyes. It is appalling that the next pandemic wouldn’t just be a virus that would cripple world economy but rather it would be a combination, a series of destructive events culminating into a tapestry of cataclysm.
As the earth gets warmer, the climate changes, ice caps are melted, permafrost defrosts, water bodies increase tremendously, methane escapes into the atmosphere worsening the situation, islands are at the verge of being submerged under water, flooding becomes a normal occurrence, loss of arable lands, extreme weather events, draughts leading to famine, global food shortages, increased crime rate, confusion and a global unrest, and a mutation of pathogens.
The next global warming wouldn’t in any way be funny; it wouldn’t be a thing that would be used to play politics as the present one is. The present pandemic has set the world in confusion as this generation hasn’t thought about the possibility of such a thing happening and we’re yet to get out of the shock, the next pandemic would be worse. We won’t even have the time to reflect because everything would come our way at the same time.
Nine are saved, they say, by a stitch in time, if the warning given by Dr Li Wenliang in Wuhan was taken seriously and acted upon on time, plausibly, the virus would have been contained in Wuhan, highest it would have just being an epidemic. Unfortunately, we are at the verge of experiencing the next pandemic, we’ve lingered too much. We are not also taking the warnings seriously. We’ve responded to global threats with such levity treating the whole matter as though we have all the time in the cosmos.
We may be needing more than nose masks, hand sanitizers, gloves, social distance, PPEs and an isolation centre to manage the next pandemic. We can however do something about it while we battle with this one. We start by taking responsibility. Reducing our carbon footprints and many other activities that causes environmental degradation and damages to the ozone layer. Investing and developing alternative sources of energy, most especially green energy for it is sustainable and environmentally friendly, responsible consumption and a drastic reduction in food wastage.
We might just as well be ready for the next pandemic if we key into the sustainable development goals and speed up the process of achieving these goals. We start all of these by taking responsibility. Sustainability is the goal.
30th January, 2021
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