As I sit down to write this article, WHO reports more than 5 lakh people being infected by the deadly virus. To put things into perspective Mangalore’s population is 4.8 lakh. Therefore imagine this beloved city of ours being brought down to its knees and almost 1 in every 10 people you know could be dead by the time you are done reading this article. This is not yet the case here, but it did play at some scale in Italy, where an entire generation has been virtually wiped out in certain parts of the country.
An enemy less understood will never be defeated. Let us try to understand the virus. COVID-19 is a mutation of the SARS virus. The origin of this virus is pinned down to China. While there are umpteen debates on how this virus came about, this was a time-bound situation and was going to happen sooner than later. What is however clearly exposed is how the world is grossly unprepared to take on a literal global catastrophe. Even the most powerful nation/kingdom to have ever existed, the United States, is finding it difficult to grapple with this situation. So let’s clear the clutter which are the forwards and tabloid news on the virus and learn the basics. Frankly speaking, as laymen what is expected of us is only basics at the most.
The infection rate of COVID-19 compared to other major outbreaks
Coronavirus disease, COVID-19, has a mortality rate of 3% to 4% for every 100 infected people. While this is still a big number, it pales in comparison to the SARS virus of the early 2000s which had a mortality rate of almost 30%. But what makes COVID-19 especially dangerous is that it is two times more infectious than SARS. In fact, it is the most infectious pandemic in recent history barring HIV. Therefore, a higher number of people will be infected, in which case 3% of a large number makes it more dangerous than SARS. SARS killed almost 18,000 people in 2004, COVID-19 in the four months since the world first came to know of it has killed more than 25,000. This is primarily due to the sheer volume of infected people.
The virus, although highly contagious, has relatively low mortality rates especially for people under 60. The key message is that there is no need to panic
Therefore, the key here is the infection itself. Most, if not all of us, will survive the COVID-19 infection, but the most vulnerable, the old, pre-condition people and children will have lasting damages to their organs if not death. Hence, it is very important to break this chain of infection. Firstly, the simplest way is by reducing human contact or social distancing as we call it now. One has to just sit at home to do this. Secondly, remember not to touch your face or any other orifice of your body with your hands without washing them thoroughly with soap and water or a sanitizer. Thirdly, a pre-emptive in this fight against COVID-19 is identifying the vulnerable in your household and making sure any contact with them takes place only after you take the necessary precautions. Parents, look at your children, and children, look at your aging parents; these faces will become just numbers in the next WHO report if we take this lightly during the coming 21 days which are crucial as we might see the peak of this pandemic in India.
Social distancing is extremely critical to stopping the spread of coronavirus
Fear is important, it keeps us alive. But panic is not fear, it is an extension of conceding defeat. And in doing so we are doing the one thing we shouldn’t be doing - increasing the chances of infection. You might not even realize if you’re the carrier of the virus as most will suffer mildly or not even show symptoms. But one touch to your child or old parent might spell doom to them.
It is important to slow down the spread through simple measures such as social distancing, hand washing as covered in the article (flatten the curve)
It is very important that we not only defeat this pandemic, but we do it fast. The number of people infected and dead is a function of time. This time has already created havoc to the world economy. We are numb to this grim situation currently as we are occupied with the virus. Once we overcome this we will be facing an economic situation of the order never seen in living memory for most of us.
This can only be undone and quickly if the damage done in the first place is also less, which again is possible if we spend less time fighting this virus. It boils down to following local authority directives and breaking the chain of infection. One small action from you can have such long-lasting effects for generations to come. Use technology, digital payments, community task forces under the supervision of the local authorities to handle the transfer of essential goods and services. Be proactive in fighting this and not in spreading the infection. Finally, be human, be kind. In times of crisis we only think of our near and dear ones, but every time we ask someone to do something for us, such as a delivery or keeping a shop open for long, we are asking someone else to risk their lives for choices we have made. Remember that healthcare workers, policemen, housemaids, taxi drivers, shop keepers are taking risks and making these sacrifices on a daily basis. Be intelligent and true to the name of the most literate district in the state.
Let’s make this a fight that we all not only win but also fight together.
About the Author:
Dr. Joylene DAlmeida is a Consultant Gynecologist and Surgeon with a special interest in Preventive Gynaec Medicine.
Co-Authors: Allen Dalmeida, Ex Oracle, Indian institute of management Ahmedabad and Abhinav Tripathi, Ex Mckinsey, Indian Institute of Management Ahmedabad
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