One would think that our world, compared to the past centuries where pandemics have killed millions of people is better equipped when it comes to fending off diseases thanks to medical breakthroughs and innovations. Intuitively, we expect less infectious diseases to pop out and spread today.
However, we know that this is not true at all. One can recall diseases such as SARS, Ebola, Zika, HIV/AIDS and the current Wuhan Coronavirus seemingly plaguing our world in never before seen frequencies. What is happening?
The frequency of disease outbreaks can be attributed mainly to three factors:
- We travel more and we travel further than ever
- We live closer together, e.g., in urban areas
- Poverty — a huge weakener of health — is rampant
All of these factors lead to increased exposure and vulnerability to infectious diseases. This is the main reason why disease outbreaks are more rampant than they were in the past.
Moreover, climate change is also closely linked to the prevalence of infectious diseases, since the warming climate is a perfect environment for some disease carriers like mosquitoes to thrive.
Now we have to ask, where are these emerging infections coming from, to begin with?
According to the Baylor College of Medicine, emerging infections result from:
- Previously unknown infectious agents
- Known agents that reached new locations
- Known agents with previously unrecognized roles in diseases
- Re-emergence of diseases which has once died down
Preventing the spread
Knowing this, how then, do we stop these infections from spreading? Let’s boil it down one by one.
For previously unknown infectious agents & known agents with previously unrecognized roles in diseases
For previously unknown or unrecognized agents, much research is needed in order to understand the mechanics of transmission. In this case, medical researchers should be given firepower in the manner of funds to empower them.
For known agents that reached new locations
This is applicable for people who travel or plan to settle elsewhere. While people inhabiting a country have gained immunity, this might not be applicable to you. With this, full awareness of the potential risks and getting the appropriate immunizations, if available, is the responsible thing to do.
For the re-emergence of diseases which has once died down
The reemergence of diseases in a location where it has already died down is indicative of a decline in the health measures previously enforced for its suppression. The reinforcement of these measures is therefore imperative.
Another possible reason could be the appearance of new strains which gained resistance to medications used to fend them off. This is due to the overuse of antibiotics which is quite prevalent in our world. Refusal to get vaccination is, of course, another factor to take into account. The public health sector should maintain its aggression when it comes to disseminating accurate information to the public.
Not a lost cause
While the emergence of a disease is practically unpredictable, it doesn’t mean that we’re helpless. Our circumstances might be a huge disfavour in combating these diseases, but we still have our developed medical technology in our favour.
We should empower our citizens to become healthy, to practice basic hygiene daily, and be well-informed by disseminating information and providing them with access to health services. We shouldn’t wait out diseases to reach uncontrollable levels before we begin thinking of preventive measures, we should begin now.
While it is easy to maintain a state of complacency, a careful stance is way more preferable than millions of lives lost.