Pandemic and Preparedness

 

Author: DR. N K VENKATARAMANA, Senior Consultant

Any contagious infectious disease that affects a large number of people at a time in a place is called an “Epidemic”. If it continues over time, it becomes “Endemic”. If the infection affects many countries, it is called a “Pandemic”. The world has witnessed many such epidemics and pandemics. Dengue is an epidemic, Malaria is endemic, Plague, Covid are the pandemics. I clearly recollect my grandfather’s words about the Plague, where people were kept out of the village until they recovered or succumbed. The affected villages were marked with symbols on the trees at the entry; then, for any such infection, people were isolated for 40 days, and that’s how the quarantine came into existence. I myself have seen in childhood isolation of people at home if there is any viral infection like chickenpox or measles. Neem leaves and turmeric water was the only antisepsis then. We have come a long way from that, yet not enough to face the current contemporary solutions. 

Despite all the advances the world had witnessed, we were caught unaware when the coronavirus became a pandemic. This has brought the world to a halt apart from killing many precious and professional lives. Interestingly in 2015, Mr Bill Gates spoke about such pandemics in his TED talk, emphasising that the world is not prepared to face it. Focus on Nuclear defence hoodwinked other possibilities, including Bioterrorism. All the advancements in health care failed equally to face the challenge of mass casualties. The modest experience of managing natural calamities didn’t help as the challenges are totally complex and diverse. Thus the distinction of developed and developing becomes a grey zone. Now we all know that “we are as good as our Neighbours”. According to WHO predictions, the virus might exist in the environment for a long period of time. Hence physical distancing, face masking, hand hygiene and strict adherence to guidelines must be practised even after lockdown is faced out. 

The healthcare industry should wake up to this fact and plan for the future. We must build large medical teams along with robust protective systems to safeguard them as frontline fighters. It is unfortunate that the world has lost a huge number of medical professionals and doctors, the first time ever. Bulk manufacturing facilities have to be augmented in the country to face any eventuality. 

Scientists should join hands with Clinicians and work on drug discovery as well as vaccines, eventually, come up with valid protocols. Health care delivery will take a new dimension from the learnings around the world. New standards, guidelines, universal protective systems will evolve. Above all, capacity building and preparedness for the future deserves special mention. 

The economy of every industry, including health, will change, and necessity, prudence, and frugality will dictate the future. We must use technology effectively to conserve resources. Emphasis should be laid on ecology, hygiene and self-discipline of the citizens across the country. Education must provide awareness enough to do away with policing and supervision. Everyone must own the responsibility for themselves, their family and the Nation. Travel and lifestyle will necessarily demand suitable modifications. Economic losses will take time to recover. Everyone, without any exceptions, must shoulder the responsibility of “Nation Building” collectively and unconditionally to bring the country back on its wheels. 

Pandemic is a wake-up call and a real call for collective action for the future. So act today for a better tomorrow.

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