By the time you read this, several hundred more people will have become infected with the Novel (new) Coronavirus. The pandemic has not gone away and several more people will have died.
Pandemics have been with us for thousands of years, but this one is new, which explains why we cannot just come up with a vaccine or some other protection for us last week, this week or next week. And antibiotics do not work on viruses.
When looking at pandemics we have to consider Contagion and Virulence and Incubation. Contagion is a measurement of how easily the virus can infect another person and the Incubation period is the length of time between infection and the appearance of symptoms and Virulence looks at how likely that person will be killed by the virus.
There have been many pandemics affecting mankind with the Plague or Black Death most memorable. The Black Death was one of the most feared diseases in the 14th century. It was a type of plague that was spread via the bite of infected rat fleas and killed a reputed 50 million people.
Another very virulent pandemic was the Spanish Flu of 1918 which became a greater killer than WW1 itself with an estimated 17 million deaths.
Cholera, bubonic plague, smallpox, and influenza were some of the most brutal killers in human history. Outbreaks of these diseases across international borders, are properly defined as pandemic, especially smallpox, which, has killed between 300-500 million people in the last 12,000 years.
Here are some others:
Flu Pandemic (1968)
Death Toll: 1 million
A category 2 Flu pandemic sometimes referred to as “the Hong Kong Flu,” the 1968 flu pandemic was caused by the H3N2 strain of the Influenza A virus, a genetic offshoot of the H2N2 subtype. From the first reported case on July 13, 1968 in Hong Kong, it took only 17 days before outbreaks of the virus were reported in Singapore and Vietnam, and within three months had spread to The Philippines, India, Australia, Europe, and the United States. The 1968 pandemic resulted in the deaths of more than a million people, including 500,000 residents of Hong Kong, approximately 15% of its population at the time.
Asian Flu (1956-1958)
Death Toll: 2 million
Asian Flu was a pandemic outbreak of Influenza A of the H2N2 subtype, that originated in China in 1956 and lasted until 1958 Asian Flu traveled from the Chinese province of Guizhou to Singapore, Hong Kong, and the United States. The World Health Organization places the final tally at approximately 2 million deaths, 69,800 of those in the US alone.
Flu Pandemic (1889-1890)
Death Toll: 1 million
Originally called the “Asiatic Flu” or “Russian Flu”, this strain was thought to be an outbreak of the Influenza A virus subtype H3N8.
And here’s a couple of interesting plagues:
Plague of Justinian (541-542)
Death Toll: 25 million
Thought to have killed perhaps half the population of Europe. The Plague of Justinian was an outbreak of the bubonic plague that afflicted the Byzantine Empire and Mediterranean port cities, killing up to 25 million people. Killing up to a quarter of the population of the Eastern Mediterranean and devastating the city of Constantinople, killing an estimated 5,000 people per day and eventually resulting in the deaths of 40% of the city’s population.
Antonine Plague (165 AD)
Death Toll: 5 million
Also known as the Plague of Galen, the Antonine Plague was an ancient pandemic that affected Asia Minor, Egypt, Greece, and Italy and is thought to have been either Smallpox or Measles, though the true cause is still unknown. This unknown disease was brought back to Rome by soldiers returning from Mesopotamia around 165AD; unknowingly, they had spread a disease which would end up killing over 5 million people and decimating the Roman army.
In recent memory we had SARS (severe acute respiratory syndrome) which had around 8,100 cases reported during the eight-month outbreak.
We are now in the middle of a very contagious flu, which is quite virulent and we are not sure of how long is the incubation period. Estimates run from 2 days to 27 days. The generally accepted ‘best guess’ is 14 days, but what is not known is how infectious people are during the incubation period.
So we have a contagious, virulent virus which we have managed to identify, but as yet we do not have a “cure”.
There are ongoing trials of treatments including using AIDS retrovirals, but that did not work. A Swami said that the virus can be defeated by drinking cow urine, applying cow dung to the body and chanting “Om Namah Shivay”.
However, you can protect yourself and help prevent spreading the virus to others if you do the following:
Wash your hands regularly for 20 seconds, with soap and water or alcohol-based hand rub. I suggest at least once per hour.
Cover your nose and mouth with a disposable tissue or flexed elbow when you cough or sneeze.
Avoid close contact (2 meters) with people who are unwell.
Stay home and self-isolate from others in the household if you feel unwell.
Don’t touch your eyes, nose, or mouth if your hands are not clean.
Wear a face mask if you are around sick patients.
And chant “Om Namah Shivay” if you enjoy the chanting.