Over the past 200 years or so, we have all worked together and been able to find even more innovative ways to end life on Earth as we know it. The invention of gunpowder itself was an unprecedented innovation in the field of mass killings – the number of deaths in some wars took away entire swathes of our population – by comparison, the inventions of the coming centuries would give the impression of being tamed.
A threat, however, has remained unchanged for as long as we remember, and we still do not take it too seriously. The history of coronaviruses is being written, with cases reported in countries around the world. It has completely disrupted services in the world , taking by surprise one of the most technologically developed countries – and developing ones like Ghana.
The reason this recent outbreak has shocked everyone is that we have forgotten that the greatest threat to human life is not nuclear or anything else, but pandemics. Even with all our cutting-edge technologies – some of which can even play against us in epidemics – the threat of a virus that comes out of nowhere and ends human civilization as we know it is still as real as it always has been.
10 Globalization Is Making Things Worse, Not Better
One might think that because the world is as connected as it is today, infectious diseases are much less likely than in any other period of history. This is also true to some extent, because our connectivity advances our collective knowledge in various areas, particularly medicine. If you can get information about the disease in an isolated part of the world, biologists around the world can study it and set up defenses against it.
The problem, however, is that when a truly serious epidemic – like the one in 2019-nCoV – occurs, all the benefits of global networks play against us. Most of the time, we simply have no way to detect viruses, because they are almost always unknown strains that no one has seen yet.
Today, with vast interconnected networks to transport people around the world, but with no way of knowing if they are infected, epidemics can reach much larger areas and develop defenses even before that we can detect them. The avian influenza outbreak, for example, was a stronger, previously unknown strain of a virus found only in birds, and is probably an ancient disease that was not a threat before it was.
9 Pandemics Have Killed Far More People Than Anything Else
The reason we do not see pandemics as a serious enough threat is that we believe that we are no longer immune to them, or that they do not kill as many people like other things, such as nuclear weapons. While recent advances in the detection and treatment of pathogens have allowed us to better combat them, they are also much more numerous today, including strains that have never infected humans before. In terms of the number of deaths, pandemics are by far the deadliest in history.
It is not even necessary to go back to the past; we are currently in the midst of several serious pandemics. The AIDS virus has killed about 40 million people today. Influenza causes about 80,000 to 100,000 deaths a year in the United States alone, which is only a fraction of the world’s 650,000 deaths.
Even in history, global pandemics are by far the greatest agents of mass destruction we have ever seen. Just think of the plague of Justinian, which killed a hundred million people over several centuries. At its peak, when it broke out, it is said that about 10,000 people died every day in Constantinople alone. The Spanish flu has killed more than 100 million people in just a few months. It began during the four-year World War I, which claimed 40 million lives, the second-highest figure ever.
There are many reasons why these viruses have not been able to kill everyone. The Spanish flu, for example, has simply decided to soften over time, looking us in the eye and telling us that it chooses to spare us. The world was not as interconnected as it is today during these plagues, either. If a stronger strain of one of these plagues returns, you can be sure that it would have a much greater impact today.
8 Every New Outbreak Requires Working From Scratch
At the time of writing, several countries – including the United States – have imposed mandatory quarantine procedures at their major airports. Countries around the world have also imposed emergency health alerts to prevent Covid-19 from entering their country, although cases are emerging every day. One wonders why we are so unprepared for epidemics of diseases that occur at regular intervals.
It’s simple, our medical technology is not yet advanced enough to detect and find cures for new epidemics. Previous medical knowledge does not apply to new strains, which require re-assessment and diagnosis. This, too, wastes valuable time. In most of the worst pandemics in history, most deaths occurred in the early days, before people found ways to contain them. Of course, it was as simple as not sleeping near were pooping in the Middle Ages, but even modern plagues – like the Spanish flu – were the deadliest in their early days. Each new epidemic still requires understanding the pathogen from scratch, which in turn affects our ability to respond effectively to the crisis.
7 They Are Getting More Powerful (And At A Scary Rate)
If you read articles about the most serious epidemics of recent times – including coronaviruses – the most disturbing details seem to be the bloodiest. Take Ebola. Most people were horrified by the combinations of protection against hazardous materials and the stories of health professionals who died horribly because of an infection while caring for the inhabitants. It’s a heartbreaking image, even if it’s not the scariest part. Outside the scope of prime-time information cameras, many other diseases kill in a much more horrific way.
The worst part, however, is not that it is a strain against which we had no defense. It is that every time we study a new Ebola epidemic – because it is still ongoing – it is a stronger version of a strain already discovered. This means that viruses quickly become more resistant and evolve faster than expected (or even known). Even the current coronavirus epidemic is due to a strain that cannot inherently affect humans but has mutated to be able to do so. This strain is also stronger and more virulent than all the others, which explains the scale of the crisis in the world.
These epidemics prove what biologists have been saying for years. The new, more potent strains of viruses that are evolving against our drugs are one of the greatest threats to human life.
6 Vaccines Cause Some Viruses To Become Even Deadlier
Vaccines have their share of criticism, but we can all agree that they have succeeded in eradicating some of the worst diseases that humanity has suffered in thousands of years. Thanks to vaccines, people do not die on the street because they accidentally ate a damaged apple two centuries ago.
But scientifically speaking, vaccines have a side effect. Vaccines make viruses – especially deadly viruses – even more deadly, according to one study. This makes biological sense because vaccines used on poultry and other pets can reinforce certain diseases, which could then learn to affect humans and wreak havoc.
Many scientists have criticized the study on the grounds that it only concerns chickens because it gives credit to the anti-vaccine movement. Whatever it affects and what people think of vaccines unless we find another way to build vaccines, a possible uncontrolled pandemic that would kill us all could be just one of its side effects to which we should face it.
5 Many New, Previously Unknown Viruses Are Showing Up
With regard to climate change affecting pathogens, the relationship is questionable. Of course, there is no doubt that higher temperatures would cause them to spread to many more countries than before, but this could be easily resolved if governments work together.
A more pressing relationship between climate change and a virus-related extinction event is somewhere at the top of the world map. Permafrost that has formed throughout the Arctic, particularly in Siberia, is believed to be home to a number of dormant and dangerous diseases. Many scientists believe that many of our recent strains of viruses – such as Ebola – come from permafrost, which has already melted, and that doesn’t seem too exaggerated.
In any case, many new strains of viruses, including coronavirus, have been discovered in recent years, a phenomenon that few people have been able to explain correctly. According to experts, melting permafrost would also give way to diseases we may never even see, let alone treated.
4 Microbes Are Mysterious And Impossible To Study
If we asked you what is the most dominant type of life on Earth after man, you would probably say mammals or something like that. But if you look at the numbers or ask a biologist, you will realize that no other creature compares to microbes in terms of number, diversity, habitat types, etc. You’ll find microbes wherever you can imagine, from the most inhospitable depths of the ocean to outer space. While there is no doubt that they have done for themselves, their diversity makes them difficult to study and counter for us.
We simply have no idea how many types of microbes exist on Earth. Forget the Earth, they recently discovered a type of bacteria in the human gut that scientists had never seen before.
She was so foreign that they had to make her a branch of life in its own right, which had to separate from ours in the early years of evolution. This is just one example of the many ways in which we do not fully understand – and will never understand – the quasi-terrestrial world of microbes, which is crucial in the fight against serious pandemics threatening civilization.
3 The Next Pandemic can Around The Corner, And We’re Not Ready
If there is one thing the coronavirus epidemic proves, it is that we are still very dependent on the pity of nature to keep us alive. Our systems are still not equipped to deal with a virus outbreak, although science maintains that we are at an acute and urgent risk of a global pandemic.
A study has shown that if a global epidemic were to occur now, it would kill more than 80 million people as a result of worsening health crisis situations in many countries around the world. Biologists are also discovering many new strains of viruses – strains they have never seen before – in animals at an alarming rate, especially in livestock. Other studies have stated that the next virus is about to arrive – if it is not already there with the 2019-nCoV – and that we are ridiculously ill-prepared for it.
2 We’re Responsible For Making Them Stronger, Too
In all the devastating pandemics in history, we have not been able to do much. Even today, viruses are growing under the side effect of antibiotics and other measures needed to lead a comfortable life on Earth. There is nothing we can do about it, other than strengthening our medical infrastructure and hoping that everything will be fine because it does not seem to be our fault.
But if we look at some of the historic decisions made by major governments and scientific institutions, we find that at least some of those decisions are certainly our fault. There are many conspiracy theories around some recent outbreaks from military laboratories, and we see no reason why some of them are not true. Biological and chemical research has always been an important part of military budgets, and if you look at the possibility that it could cause pandemics in the civilian world, that may not be the best idea.
Worryingly, the U.S. government has recently abolished controls on the type of pathogens it can manufacture in the laboratory, giving the country’s private and government laboratories the opportunity to manufacture newer and more deadly strains of the virus. Of course, research is also aimed at helping to combat these diseases, although the possibility that they may be misused for monetary or other reasons is too egregious to ignore.
There have been rare cases of actual human error resulting in virus leaks, such as the latest H1N1 outbreak. When the scientists discovered that this was a strain that had not been seen since the 1950s and decided to look into it, they found that it was because of the mishandling of the sample by a laboratory.
1 Some Viruses Out There Are Much Worse Than 2019-nCoV
The Spanish flu and the Black Death are remembered for their number of deaths and their effects on the world. That’s why they seem so scary because they have killed millions of people and brought about profound changes in society.
If we compare their effects to other scarier epidemics, but with fewer deaths, they have no chance. There have been many epidemics in history, far worse than anything we saw during the Spanish flu – such as the period of The Illness of English Sweat in the 15th century – which killed their victims in a much more horrific way. The only reason we do not hear about it is that they have calmed down on their own and the number of victims has remained low. If they were to come back to stay, we would have even more trouble dealing with them than the worst epidemics in our history.
More importantly, some of these diseases belong to mysterious families of viruses that we do not know how to treat. Even the Spanish flu was a mutated form of influenza that we knew before. According to many biologists, the real threat to human life comes from pathogens that may be completely different from anything we have seen before.
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