Saturday, 28 March 2020

''Covid-19'' pandemic is not like the ''Spanish Flu'' of 1918 and can be contained!

timesofindia.indiatimes.com/
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 As of today in India  due to coronavirus, there has been 20 deaths, 903 confirmed cases and 83 recovered. Health experts say it will go up  as days go by and we have to be more cautious than before. The govt. of India announced total lock down of  the country to retard the progress of the virus. Do not ever venture out and get mingled with a large gathering of people. Give priorities to practices as social distancing, hand-washing and proper sanitation, Glad all temples, churches and mosques are closed for public safety. Right now,  self isolation is the only solution on hand and we have go a long way to go  to get out of this present health crisis that has a tight grip on the world.

This virus is not as bad as the Spanish Virus of 1918 that took the entire world by surprise, causing a heavy toll of lives across the world.  Covid-19, having been  recently  declared  a pandemic, medical researchers point out that  we need to learn  a lot from the the deadliest flu that ever stuck the world in 1918 -the Spanish Flu.  It is a futile attempt to make a comparison between covid-19 and the Spanish flu because  there is a big gulf between their  mode of transmission. However, the bewildered  and confused research fraternity have  rediscovered the Spanish Flu of 1918  in the present covid-19.   As mentioned in my previous post on Spanish Flue, the name was a misnomer; Spain had nothing to  do with that airborne avian virus that  killed 50 to 100 million people world over. India was under the Raj and we lost about 15 million plus  people.  No specific anti-viral therapies were available during the 1918 flu and it is true today.
Today US President Don Trump  has kept  calling covid-19  a China virus and blames it on  the carelessness of Chinese virus researchers in a Wuhan lab despite protests from the Communist China.  Lack of transparency on the part of China, when  first reports of  deadly virus leak came to light in December, 2019, the arrest of a doctor who who blew the whistle on  the leak of the deadly virus, tight-lipped Chinese media, evasive explanation from the Chinese government and most importantly China's refusal to allow  US journalists to gather information on the virus leak  etc. ,- all  these  angered the western countries that are presently  very much affected by the virus. The world is in a crisis with one in 3 is in self-imposed isolation.  In India, the toll is gradually going up and the governments - both Central and  State are taking precautions carefully to handle the possible 3rd stage transmission. Already the toll in the USA had gone past 1000 as on March 26. Had the Chinese made the warning  before hand in the earliest stages, the countries world over would have taken proper precaution before it was turning into a pandemic. 
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The viruses that cause the Spanish flu and Covid-19 belong to two  different families. Sars-CoV-2 (which causes Covid-19), belong  to the coronavirus family. The Spanish Flu  spreads through a population at a rapid clip,  but corona has a tendency to infect in clusters.  According to Laura Spinney in a recent article in The Guardian that corona virus outbreaks can be controlled as we did with  SARS (2002 in China) and and MERES provided we take proper precaution before hand. She is of the view that  1918 scenario was different from the present one; it was  war time  and  the main theater was Europe.  Yet another underlying fact is  100 years ago, religious heads were powerful and had a  tremendous political  clout with the powers  that be. So people could not go against them.   In the Spanish city of Zamora a large no of people died in 1918 - perhaps, highest in Europe.,  part of the reason was the local bishop never obeyed the health authorities and arranged for  evening prayers in honor of St. Rocco on  nine  consecutive days, providing a suitable site for the Spanish flu to show its demonic impact on the religious gathering.  No doubt, “religion, nevertheless, had played a part” in the pandemic. 
In the recent covid-19 case, more or less similar scenario  prevailed in  South Korea where cluster of  virus seemed  to have spread via churches,  particularly through prayer masses. In the case of  Iran, that was hard hit by coronavirus,  pilgrims  defiantly licked the Fatimah Masumeh shrine in Qom.
Spanish virus, 1918. en.wikipedia.org/
In 1918 when India was under the British rule, unfortunately the country was drawn into war  as part of the British forces.  When the Spanish fly hit India with vengeance, it caused 10 to 20 million deaths. The primary cause was packed crowded cities,  social gathering, mass movement of people from one region to other via the railways, etc. The Bombay presidency took the maximum beating in June 1918.  The deplorable fact  is the British government that got entangled in WWI did not show one tenth of interest in stopping the spread of virus  across India as they showed in native Indians' participation in the war and supply of  many  essential  accessories  made in India for the military.
Spanish virus, 1918. edition.cnn.com
Since 1918 pandemic we have made big progress  and learned a lot about the flu and its impact on the society. Its severity and rapid spread are governed by a collective interplay of viral, host and external factors. The latter include mass gathering, mass transportation and air pollution.  The Doherty Institute's Dr. Carolien van de Sandt says,'' "Understanding these factors is vital for influenza pandemic preparedness." It is worth noting, according to Sandt,  ''Climate changes affect animal reservoirs of influenza viruses and bird migration patterns. This could spread viruses to new locations and across a wider range of bird species," Different age groups, viral and host factors need to given due attention in providing emergency vaccines during future pandemics. 
We have no idea when the world will face another flu on a scale like this and it is the responsibility of the health care dept of a country to prepare its people to face an emergency situation with confidence by way of knowing what not to do, what needs to be .


done, etc. Though it is a tough proposition, virologists world over should collectively make efforts to  come up with an  effective vaccine applicable to any type of future virus(es)  primarily to control the new virus' spread and severity initially to buy time to come up with a specific vaccine to kill it based on factors such as transmission, hosts and external factors. If you want to know more about 1918 pandemic, read: Pale Rider: The Spanish Flu of 1918 and How it Changed the World. by Laura Spinney (Hardcover, 332 pages Published June 1st 2017 by Jonathan Cape. price: $12.99 Amazon) by Laura Spinney
https://medicalxpress.com/news/2018-10-lessons-flu-pandemicyears.html
https://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/india/why-covid-19-is-nothing-like-the-deadly-spanish-flu/articleshow/74623053.cms