By: Adeosun Moses
We live in a world of many uncertainties. However, in the midst of uncertainty, some things stand to be more certain than others. Among the relatively more certain things is the possibility of the world experiencing another disease pandemic on the scale – or similar to – COVID-19. That means lockdowns, food scarcity, and consequent disasters. Like in the case of the big bad wolf, COVID-19, the effects of another pandemic may become extremely heightened in a third-world country like Nigeria, especially with the mass exit of medical practitioners.
One peculiar thing about pandemics is that they are caused by viral particles. Viruses are unique in that they exhibit antigenic shifts and antigenic variations; meaning they can change strain multiple times in one pandemic season. This makes vaccine production and immune responses more difficult. Also, treatment becomes extremely difficult because they (Viruses) take over the bodies’ cellular replication mechanisms; trying to annihilate them would be a risk to the cells they have colonized.
So, which of the viruses may disturb medical practices next?
Possible Viral Pandemics: Why They Should Be Expected And Possible Prevention Mechanisms
Although primarily known to infect birds, some strains of Avian Influenza –like the H5N1 strain – are known to infect man. The virus generally has three hosts; man, pig, and birds. The pig serves as a literal mixer; human and bird influenza strains can be combined to create a new strain that would affect both animals. This would have meant “so long to pork meat and chicken”, but you probably have nothing to worry about. At least for now, the strains are considered “poorly adapted to humans. Also, the predominant source of infection is wild birds.
However, the virus has a big history. The 1918 influenza pandemic – which was the most severe pandemic in recent history – was caused by an H1N1 virus with genes of avian origin. According to the Centre for Disease Control (CDC), it is so deadly that about one-third of the world’s population became infected with this virus. The number of deaths was estimated to be at least 50 million worldwide. Mortality was high in people younger than 5 years old, 20-40 years old, and 65 years and older. The most unique characteristic of the virus was its ability to infect and kill healthy people between the ages of 20-40. Symptoms include fever, cough, runny nose, sore throat, muscle pain, and headache. Like COVID, basic prevention is by hand washing and flu vaccines. Should there be a pandemic, well, you may have to avoid Danfos, BRTS, Micra cars, and public places. So! Lockdown 2.0
The Corona Virus may be another brewing storm, waiting for the next man’s shenanigans to go viral (pun intended). Although it was the culprit in the most recent pandemic, there is a great possibility that it makes a comeback due to how easily it forms new variants. The viral pandemic started in China in December 2019, and within that space of time, it has had the Delta, Alpha, and Omicron Variants. That is not all, some strains of the virus have their sub-variants. The increasing ease with how the Coronavirus (SARS-CoV-2) mutates suggests a possibility of recurrence. Like the unpopular variants, the infection can be prevented by proper hygiene, hand washing, and avoiding contact with infected people.
Finally, there is the Zika Virus. Although most people who are infected with Zika have only mild symptoms, the virus has been linked to serious birth defects when pregnant women are infected. There is concern that Zika could become a pandemic if it were to spread more widely. It is spread mostly by the bite of an infected Aedes species mosquito (Ae. aegypti and Ae. albopictus). The fact that Zika has a very common host(mosquitoes), especially in this temperate region, makes it one that would most likely be very dangerous if it becomes a pandemic.
We may have dodged a bullet with COVID-19, but the threat of future pandemics is still lurking just around the corner. Who knows what new virus might come knocking at our door next? But don’t panic just yet; with proper hygiene practices and vaccination, we can take a stand against these pesky little viral particles. And in the event of another pandemic, we’ll have plenty of time to hone our hand-washing skills and stock up on toilet paper. Let’s all hope that the next big bad virus doesn’t turn us all into werewolves or zombies, but if it does, at least we’ll be ready for it! Stay safe, stay sanitized, and keep your eyes peeled for any lurking viral foes.