Let’s add COVID-19 in list of diseases, and move on

From historical times, human beings have been surviving, in spite of several types of diseases confronting them. In such situations, medical science has developed and come out with new inventions, drugs, and cure with a view to safeguarding human beings from diseases due to the compelling need for the survival of humanity

N S Venkataraman May 22, 2020
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From historical times, human beings have been surviving, in spite of several types of diseases confronting them. In such situations, medical science has developed and come out with new inventions, drugs, and cure with a view to safeguarding human beings from diseases due to the compelling need for the survival of humanity.

Traditional medicines: In ancient India, there were reports of several medicinal practices and development of several types of drugs for the treatment of different types of illnesses, which were mostly based on natural products and not developed by the synthetic processes. Traditionally, such Indian medical practices have been termed as Ayurveda, Siddha, etc. In other countries too, such traditional medical practices have prevailed under various names such as homeopathy, Unani, etc. In short, the world has been living with diseases from time immemorial and has been responding to the diseases by developing appropriate medical procedures from time to time.

Development of new diseases: With the changing lifestyle of people, development of synthetic production processes for cosmetics, chemicals, fertilisers, pesticides, etc. and environmental hazards created by industrial operations and transportation, promotion of new food items, etc. newer diseases have also been steadily arising.

Efforts of medical researchers: The medical researchers have not lagged behind and have been developing new drugs and vaccines to treat new and emerging diseases. Some of the synthetic drugs developed for the treatment of diseases were also reported to have side effects, which cause more diseases and sickness. Regulatory authorities have been from, from time to time, imposing a ban on some of these drugs, due to unacceptable side effects, though the damage due to such banned drugs would have already happened.

COVID-19 latest addition:  COVID-19 is the latest addition to the rest of the diseases in the world. Huge international efforts have now been taken up to identify the root cause of COVID-19 and develop appropriate drug/vaccine to treat the disease. Given the past success ratings of medical researchers in handling other diseases, one can be hopeful that before long appropriate drug/vaccine would also be developed to treat COVID-19 patients.

Limitations of medical research: While medical research has developed phenomenally, the medical research has not been able to prevent the occurrence of the disease, except in a few cases. Of course, in the case of polio, vaccines given to the children at the right time have largely eliminated the paralytic disease in the world. However, this cannot be said about several other diseases such as cancer, influenza, etc. which continue to occur at a very high level and are being treated. A similar situation may prevail in the future in the case of COVID-19 too, with medical researchers unable to prevent it but only treat it.

Alarm due to COVID-19: In the case of COVID-19, the world has reacted with huge alarm, as it is considered to wipe out the entire human race. Several world governments have declared lockdown and brought the global economy nearly to a half, like of which it has never happened before in human history.

While the panicked world is still viewing COVID-19 with great fear and medical researchers are striving hard to develop treatment procedures, certainly, the day will come when the world would reconcile itself to the prevalence of COVID-19, just as it has reconciled itself to the prevalence of diseases like cancer, flu, etc. and would also be prepared to treat the disease with appropriate procedures.

Is there overreaction to COVID-19 crisis?: Possibly, after six months or so from now when the COVID-19 crisis would settle down, the world community would look back at the crisis and would wonder whether the world has overreacted to the pandemic. The world would calculate the number of people infected by COVID-19, recovered, and died. Then, after reading these calculations, the world would inevitably come to the conclusion that it has not been as bad at all as it was feared at one time, as the world community would remain intact after the COVID-19 crisis.

It is estimated that around 0.15 million people die in the world every day due to various reasons such as old age, cancer, heart attack, kidney failure, virus attack, etc. It translates to around 54 million people die in the world every year. Till date, around 0.25 million people have died due to COVID-19 over the last four or five months. Probably, when the COVID-19 crisis would end one day, the number of deaths due to the virus could be just less than one million, considering the worst scenario. This projected death figure of just less than one million due to the on-going COVID-19 crisis does not add much to the worldwide death of 54 million every year during normal times.

Lives vis a vis livelihood debate: Of course, death is natural and inevitable. It occurs for people in various age groups and due to natural/disease factors and unnatural factors such as accidents, murders, war, etc. Every individual has to reconcile oneself to the inevitable event of death that would happen one day for everybody. In such circumstances, is it appropriate that the world economy should have been brought down to the level of stagnant or decelerating growth over several months in the year 2020, fearing COVID-19?

Due to such near-global lockdown, billions of poor people have been put to hardships, a large number of people has lost the jobs, many production centers are facing closure and it appears that it would take some time for the world to recover from these losses due to lockdown, fearing the pandemic.

How future days would view COVID 19 crisis? In the future, the world would add COVID-19 to the list of diseases prevailing in the world, treatment procedures would be evolved and some people would succumb and some people would recover. World will move on,  just as it has been moving on even as it is confronted with diseases like cancer, flu, kidney failure, heart ailment, etc.

(The writer is a Trustee, NGO Nandini Voice for the Deprived, Chennai. The views expressed are personal. He can be contacted at nsvenkatchennai@gmail.com)

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