Tuesday, April 28, 2009
This is the downside of mass transportation and globalization. Countries around the world are heavily engaged in imports/exports, technology and knowledge sharing and tourism and traveling and inevitably pandemics!
Swine flu, originating from a flu virus that infects pigs, somehow got mutated to a degree that allows it to infect humans as well. Now this is interesting on multiple levels;
Level 1: The All Mighty Virus
Flu viruses have been around forever. People have struggled with them since the dawn of time and today we still do not have an effective cure or vaccine to fully eliminate it.
In March 1918 a flu pandemic plagued our world killing between 50 – 100 million people (no mistakes in the number). The so-called Spanish Flu has the same H1N1 strain as the Swine Flu we’re fighting today. The Spanish Flu is thought to be the worst medical disaster that hit the planet Earth since the dawn of mankind. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Spanish_flu
With our current mass transportation systems and ease of travels; imagine how much easier it would be for a deadly virus to spread around the world. If the Spanish Flu spread around in 1918 to the extent it did, imagine what this flu can do?
Another sign of superior strength viruses have is the ability to mutate. These things will do whatever it takes to make sure that they infect as many living things as possible for them to survive, multiply, expand, and prevail. No other living organism in the world has such a strong mechanism and power to survive by mutating and infecting various other living organisms.
Level 2: Our Ignorance
It happened when HIV spread to humans arguably originating from Chimpanzees. It happened with Mad Cow disease (although not viral). It happened with Bird Flu; and now it’s happening again with Swine Flu.
When will we ever learn that viruses can mutate and enable themselves to infect humans? When will we ever learn to closely monitor the animals we live with and breed? When will we ever learn to think ahead of the virus and find cures and vaccines for animals’ diseases first before they infect us humans?
Level 3: The World Panics
As of today there are confirmed cases of Swine Flu infections in the United States, England, Mexico (presumably its place of origin), Israel, Spain and Germany with approximately 186 deaths so far (all in Mexico). Although the number of infected and dead is still relatively very low; world wide panic is starting to prevail.
The flu is probably the most easily transmitted disease ever. Coughing, sneezing, touching, even breathing are all ways to spread around the virus which is of course airborne. Imagine the possibilities of spreading if you have an infected person in a closed place like a hall, a train, a library, a plane, etc. The scenarios are frightening.
We might manage to easily control this. We might quickly manage to find a cure and nip it in the bun. But will this be the end of it? Or will viruses just evolve into something stronger, better…something incurable yet so easily transmitted!
Level 4: The Eternal Battle
The battle is far from over, and make no mistake, it is a battle of survival. Viruses need to continuously find new ways to mutate and evolve to survive the test of time. And human beings will also keep fighting it off for the sake of their own survival. The question is: who’s got the lead? who’s thinking ahead of time? and who’s one step behind the other?
We’ve been so preoccupied with our advances in technology, military and space that we neglected to remember that there are tiny little things that live among us and wish nothing but to harm us as a means for its survival.
With all our knowledge and technology, and all our mass synchronized collective thinking thanks to modern communication; I think we are still a step or several steps behind our enemy, the Virus!