What is a Pandemic?
Pandemic word is derived from the Greek word, ‘Pánd?mos’, meaning, of all people, public, common. It can be further broken down into two parts, PAN- meaning widespread and D?mos, meaning district, country, or people. An outbreak of any disease that takes place over a wide geographic area (such as multiple countries or continents or almost the entire world) and affects a significant proportion of the population typically is termed a Pandemic.
One should know the difference between Pandemic, Epidemic, and Outbreak.
How is it different from an Endemic, Epidemic and Outbreak?
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Plague (widely spread in Asia & Europe), Spanish flu of 1918/19 (not originating from Spain), H1N1 (commonly called Swine Flu), a pandemic of 2009, and the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic of 2019/21 are all examples of a few well-known pandemics.
How does a Virus infection become a Pandemic?
WHO (World Health Organization) has created a pandemic alert system that categorizes the pandemic as a risk of infection. It reflects the phases in which a viral infection turns into a Pandemic.
- Stage 1: is when the virus is in animals and not in humans.
- Stage 2: then, the animal virus is seen to causes infection in humans.
- Stage 3: here, only a few cases of the disease in humans have been identified. Even human to human spread in this stage has not caused any community-level outbreaks.
- Stage 4: The viral infection starts spreading from human contact and is confirmed as an outbreak at a community level, it is an Epidemic.
- Stage 5: The disease starts spreading amongst humans in one or more nations.
- Stage 6: when any country in a different continent from Phase 5 has community-level infections, it becomes a pandemic.
What are the Impacts of any Pandemic?
- Pandemics may cause noteworthy, extensive upsurges in illness and death.
- Pandemics also cause economic damage like supply chain disruptions, fiscal jolts and longer-term economic degradation.
- Behavioral changes, such as aversion from social gatherings, workplaces and depression, are seen amongst Individuals.
- Pandemic mitigation actions like lockdowns and curfews cause substantial social, commercial and monetary disturbances. Just as the visible tension amongst citizens and governments caused by Quarantines.
- They can also increase political stress in developing or underdeveloped nations and sometimes cause communal violence.
- Pandemics have resulted in rising gender inequality statistics and deprivation amongst the poor worldwide.
Is prevention and cure possible?
Viruses causing pandemics vary in potential infection and mutation capacities, and so do the strategies required for mitigation. The most cost-effective ones being, resource-constrained settings, investment in public health infrastructure, water and sanitation arrangements; amassed situational awareness, public health messaging and caution and treatment of affected and exposed. During a Pandemic, disease control teams work together to research cures and prevent additional outbreaks with an aim is to save humanity. Researchers and Biologists study the virus mutations and collaborate with medicine developers and pharma companies to develop medicine or vaccination as soon as possible.
Treatments for infections also depends on the severity of the infection. Generally, it takes a lot of time and cross border efforts to find a cure, and it is said that to normalize a pandemic situation takes three years or more depending on its spread and the level of outbreak. It is a fact that there are no sure shot cures for viral infections, and anti-biotics can fully cure only bacterial infections. Still, medical science has come up with advanced fighting mechanisms like plasma therapy and emergency use vaccines. Even after such developments, the logistics needed for the treatment to reach the ill are huge, and so it is right to say that prevention is always better than cure!
There are some common preparedness and response techniques mentioned below-
- Making an emergency contact list of local organizations, support and health services.
- Planning work from home, home learning, etc. to minimize loss due to movement restrictions.
- Storing extra water, food, medicine, and supplies.
- Up-keeping health by getting rest, managing stress, eating right, and exercising.
- Helping the aged and neighbors by sharing information and resources, while taking all self-care measures.
- Avoiding congested places and remaining at home as far as possible.
- Cleaning and disinfecting household and other surfaces which are in regular contact.
- Stay away from other people, if one is infected and consulting his/her doctor if experiencing severe symptoms.
- Wearing face masks, using sanitizers and frequent hand washing after any social interaction.
Where is the world now?
With the recent surge in infections and second wave of COVID-19, all countries are still under tension to figure out ways to control Pandemic spread. Even now, the world is waiting for signs of hope to counter the ongoing pandemic COVID-19. The drugs presently in use have helped reduce the time to recover from COVID-19 by few days, but that is not enough to be branded a ‘cure’. Hopefully, we will find soon a pandemic countering jab to relieve pressure on overwhelmed healthcare systems.