The Next Pandemic

    As I flip through my science journal, I read over again, "The Next Pandemic" dated November 8, 2019. "Human technology has made the next pandemic inevitable. Deforestation bringing more wild animals into contact with people. Factory farming pushing animals closer together. It is not a matter of if, but a matter of when.” 


    Pandemics are usually caused by two types of microbes, bacteria and viruses. Viruses have an affinity to jump from one species to another. Examples include swine flu from pigs, bird flu from birds, HIV from chimpanzees, Ebola from bats, and mosquitos that have spread several diseases. When viruses from animals come into contact with humans, this creates a zoonotic virus. These viruses mutate rapidly and transform into a new virus once it infects the human population. An example of a zoonotic virus includes the 1918 flu pandemic said to have originated from a farm in Kansas. Scientists say that the pandemic started when an infected bird and an infected human came into contact with the same pig.

    The avian influenza (H5N1) refers to the disease caused with bird flu Type A viruses. These viruses are found naturally among wild birds worldwide and have been affecting other animals for at least one hundred years. The other strain is the seasonal influenza, which is also a Type A virus that has been affecting humans for years. These two viruses can’t infect the other species, but they can both infect pigs. In one pig cell, these two viruses combine and create a zoonotic virus (H1N1). The cells from the human virus gave it the ability to infect humans. Conversely, cells from the bird virus prevented the body from recognizing it and healing itself. It was so contagious because it was airborne—the virus could hang in the air, infecting anyone who inhaled it. The 1918-1919 Influenza infected 1 in 3 people on Earth, and killed 5% of the world’s population.

    Human technology emerged in the middle of World War I. The U.S. sent troops to Europe for war and the virus spread around the world. In fact, in every past pandemic, human technology is responsible for increasing the spread around the world. 

    The black death arrived in Europe on ships in the 14th Century. The bubonic plague killed 60% of people who got it. The pneumonic plague killed almost everyone who got it. Smallpox killed 30% of the people who got it and it was more contagious. It killed 300 million people just last century. 

    Eventually, technology was developed to defend us. Quarantine was developed during the black death where infected humans isolated themselves to prevent the spread of the virus. Microscopes were invented to be able to actually see the virus. Antibiotics were also developed which made diseases less deadly. 

    Smallpox led to the development of the first ever vaccine. Vaccines work by injecting the virus proteins into the body and the body creates its own antibodies. Those antibody molecules attach to the virus proteins and neutralize the virus. So, when one does get infected by a real virus, the body can rapidly create an immune response by those antibodies and attack the virus. If enough people in a population get vaccinated, it’s almost impossible for these viruses to spread. Smallpox was finally eradicated in 1980.


    Number of Disease Outbreaks

    Journal of the Royal Society, 2014.

    Source:  Journal of the Royal Society, 2014. 

    Emerging zoonotic viruses have been increasing the number of outbreaks globally. There is an estimated 1.6 million unknown viruses in wild life and that 600,000-800,000 are zoonotic. Meaning that the next pandemic could be a virus that we’re not prepared for since there are many unknown viruses that are more dangerous and contagious. This is called ‘Disease X’. 

    Wet markets in China that have animals killed on sight make it a virus prone factory. Animals are mixed, and consequently, viruses are mixing and mutating. 


    The SARS Gateway

    Guangdong Province, China—2002 Market  

    On November 16th, a man in Foshan, China got sick after preparing meals from the wet market. He had the symptoms of pneumonia, fever, cough, and trouble breathing. When treatments didn’t work, Chinese officials labeled it as “atypical pneumonia.”

    Someone from those towns arrived in Hong Kong on February 21, 2003 and was already feeling sick. He checked in Metropole Hotel and went to his room on the 9th floor. It is said that he coughed in the hallway and infected 16 people. The man boarded a flight the next day to Hanoi, Vietnam.

    A 55 year old man from Vancouver and a 78 year old Toronto woman had stayed at the Metropole Hospital on the ninth floor. The Toronto woman flew back to Toronto and infected her son. Her son and the Vancouver man went to the hospital in Canada on March 7. The case sparked an outbreak, and the Ontario Province had 47 people infected and hundreds were in quarantine due to SARS. 251 people ended up infected in Toronto and 41 died. 1,755 people were eventually infected in Hong Kong and 300 died. SARS had cases with at least 26 other countries. 

    In Hanoi French Hospital, 63 people and most of the hospital staff became infected. One of those doctors took the disease to Bangkok, and on March 12, WHO declared it an international emergency. The virus was named Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS). 

    WHO and CDC officials started taking notes and asked the Chinese government what was going on. Chinese Health Officials only admitted there was an outbreak when 18 people died and many were already sick. After the SARS epidemic, WHO brought together 196 countries to commit for the improvement of their ability to “detect, assess, notify, and report events,” including outbreaks. By 2014, about one third of countries (64) reported fully achieving capacities. SARS went around the world in weeks which means that stopping the next pandemic needs by catching it at its source. 

    SARS began as a virus living in a wild animal. Scientists believe it originated from bats in Southern China. Scientists have been going to the cave since the outbreak and have been catching bats and scanning for viruses similar to SARS. Locations that are most prone to viruses are at the end of a tropical forest where people have just moved in. Usually, they don’t have adequate food supply so they hunt wildlife.

    It is no denying the fact that we are at the brink of another pandemic. Not knowing where it may originate from or when are the most dangerous factors of all. Scientists are continuously working to detect viruses and have been innovating new ways in which they could fight 'Disease X'. Examples include CEPI (Coalition for Epidemic Preparedness Innovations) which launched in 2017 to develop vaccines to stop future epidemics. They're developing a new vaccine that injects genetic material that tells the body to produce those proteins itself. Instead of the vaccine, the body creates those protein molecules and antibodies. Scientists can then customize genetic material to get the body to produce the protein molecules of almost any virus. Once scientists figure out how, it could potentially decrease the time it takes to create a vaccine and prevent the number of deaths caused by an outbreak. 

    Human technology has made the next pandemic inevitable. Deforestation bringing more wild animals into contact with people. Factory farming pushing animals closer together. There is a lot more that needs to be done. 



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    Ghada says (14-Aug-2020):

    That’s a great knowledge and gives us a self awareness about disease


    Ghada says (14-Aug-2020):

    That’s a great knowledge gives us us self awareness about disease thanks for sharing your knowledge