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♦ Dr. Narayan Narsingh Khatri

Genesis:

The Covid-19 case first emerged in December 2019, with a mysterious illness in Wuhan, China. The causing factor was soon confirmed to be a new kind of corona-virus. The corona infection has spread almost around two hundred countries of the world by now .

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The International Committee on Taxonomy of Viruses has given it a formal name of ‘Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome Corona-virus 2— SARS-CoV-2— for it relates to the virus that caused the SARS outbreak in 2003. However, the World Health Organization (WHO) called it the Covid-19 virus— a shortened version of corona-virus disease 2019 to avoid any ambiguity with SARS.

A person infected with the virus by laboratory testing, irrespective of clinical signs and symptoms, is what WHO defines a confirmed Covid-19 case. However, some reported case from China has included people with symptoms of covid-19 without laboratory confirmation.

Symptoms:
The most commonly reported symptoms include a fever, dry cough and tiredness, and just a runny nose or a sore throat in mild cases. In the most severe cases, people with the virus experience difficulty in breathing, and may ultimately experience organ failure. Such cases could be fatal.

Children, on the other hand, seem to be less likely to get severely ill and die from the corona-virus, possibly due to less developed immune responses. Pregnant women also do not seem to be at greater risk of experiencing severe Covid-19, and it does not seem to pass on to fetuses. There is, however, a lot to be known yet about the disease.

How deadly is it ?
On 11 March, 2020, WHO declared the outbreak as a pandemic—a term that has no universally agreed definition— giving the meaning that multiple countries are suffering a sustained transmission between people causing disease or death.

Computing the risk of death is difficult as it depends on the accuracy of those who have symptoms but survive. The Wuhan experience suggests that the risk of death increases with age, and is impliedly higher for those who have diabetes, blood clotting problems, or signs of sepsis.

Outbreak source:

The source of the Corona-virus is believed to be a ‘wet market’ in Wuhan that has been buying and selling both dead and live animals, including fish and birds.

Such markets serve as fertile places for viruses to get developed and jump from animals to humans because hygiene standards remain below-average as butchering and keeping live animals take place at the same sites that are densely packed with immense possibilities of disease to spread from species to species.

The animal source of Covid-19 has not yet been identified, but the original host are thought to be bats. Bats are not sold at the Wuhan market but may have infected live chickens or other animals sold there.

Bats are host to a wide range of zoonotic viruses—capable of spreading from animals to humans— including Ebola, HIV and rabies.

Like cold and flu bugs, the virus is spread via droplets when a person coughs or sneezes. The droplets land on surfaces and could spread with a multiplier effects. People catch the virus when they touch their mouth, nose or eyes with their infected hands.

It follows that the single most important thing one can do to protect oneself is to keep his/her hands clean by washing frequently with soap and water or a hand sanitizing gel.

Is the corona-virus airborne ?
No empirical evidences have yet been tried that the disease is airborne. Should it be so, the situation could be disastrous and deadliest as airborne viruses last for a longer period of time than those spread by droplets and can also spread in air that could infect immeasurably larger number of people.

The current finding is that the disease is transmitted through close contacts with the infected patients. Spending 15 minutes or more with an infected person within a cluster of a two meter distance could be hazardous.

How did the corona-virus start ?
Unproven allegation has been that the virus somehow escaped from a Chinese laboratory, either by an accident or a design. However, the scientists studying its genetic code have linked it to bats. They believe that the bats jump to other animals and leave viruses which in turn get passed on to humans.

The number of diseases that spreads from animals to humans is growing, and teams of virus hunters are tracking them down. Whether it be Ebola, or Swine flu, or HIV/Aids, each of them are borne by animals and have caused the most devastating epidemics in human history.

What could be the next outbreak ?
As the deadly corona-virus has created a worldwide panic, scientists and researchers that have been already in their endeavors are using artificial intelligence and other technologies to predict what virus might appear next.

The virus hunters have been working in a close collaboration with an ambitious Global Virome Project –a global scientific initiative to massively lower risk from future viral outbreaks over 10-years. They have amassed tens of thousands of samples for analysis and have discovered more than 900 new viruses. The project has identified as many as possible of the suspected 1.6 million unknown viruses in birds and mammals. Of these, 600,000- 800,000 viruses are suspected to be zoonotic.

It is appropriated to recall it that WHO has already voiced its concern to including something lurking somewhere in the wild called ‘Disease X’ in its global strategic plan . ‘ Disease X’— yet undiscovered pathogen— could have the potential to spark a pandemic—could ravage the human beings and is likely to result from a virus originating in animals and could emerge somewhere on the planet where economic growth would have driven people and wildlife together.

We sow what we reap:
Nature is a great friend of cooperation. It offers incredible scenic wonders, waters, trees, animals and fishes and immeasurable amount of natural capital including fertile lands, gases, coals, precious stones, etc. But the same nature has started appearing red in tooth and claw. Do we mind to ponder, why?

Most of what is happening is because of our own misdoings. We very much know that the Earth is a non-growing entity and its capacity to resist the damages we do is strictly limited. But again, we have been producing not only public goods but also an immeasurable amount of public bad that have spoiled the nature. Examples abound: chemical production, energy production and use of automobiles have caused the air and water pollution; long-distance transportation of sulfur emissions from power plants, radioactive exposure from atmospheric test of nuclear weapons or from accidents like that at the Ukrainian plant in Chernobyl have caused acid rains; and the buildup of chlorofluorocarbons has depleted the ozone layer.

Albert Gore—The American President candidate and the Nobel laureate— once said ‘ the task of saving the Earth’s environment must and will become the central organizing principle of the post-cold-war world.

Because of an outcry against the concomitants of industrial growth, an influential book—The Limits to Growth—published under the auspices of the Club of Rome in 1972 cautioned that the Earth’s finite resources may not sustain a continuation of high growth rates without major economic-social catastrophes.

The natural disasters including quakes, droughts, excessive rains and floods and the deadliest diseases including Ebola, Swine flu, HIV/Aids, and of late the Covid-19 that have caused the most devastating human sufferings are our own creation.

The Corona-virus is believed to have originated from the Wuhan wet market where thousands of animals are butchered in a moment of a day in a close cluster of the live animals including birds and fishes. Look at the way we kill tens of thousands—almost 50 thousand animals— including buffaloes, goats ,chickens, and pigeons with the goal of pleasing the Gadhimai—the goddess of power— at the Gadhimai temple of Bara district while celebrating the Gadhimai festival. How could we afford to impure our temples—our habitat—our preferred surroundings— this way ? How could we be so unscrupulous to kill animals that beautify the nature one way or the other?

Possible socio-economic impact:
Economic activities around the world are almost in a complete halt. The joblessness is likely to loom large. The world could suffer a devastating economic depression larger than that of the great depression of the 1930s. Though too early to comment, The Asia-Pacific Region is likely to become the greatest victim. Nepal’s economy is likely to be hit hard.

The entire human race is in the Covid-19 trauma. It has terrorized both rich and poor along with rich and poor nations. Rich nations are hit most. It has already claimed almost forty thousand lives. Worse still, no one knows what is likely to happen and what could be the total tally by the time the Covid-19 is to become a history. This simply reconfirms the truth of the popular saying ‘Samay bado balwaan chha—time is the most powerful force. Everyone— whosoever — will have to go down the way the time wishes.

Prevention is better than cure:
A small correction on our part makes the nature so graceful. Look at the visibility these days even after a week-long lock down. Look at the sky that is so bluer as never before. Does it not inspire us act in a way that could help nature to be still more gracious ?

Containing, confronting and combating Covid-19 requires strengthening our immune system. But, should we also not think of allowing the nature—the Earth— strengthen its immunity ? If yes, it is a high time to pledge that we would now on commit no damage that destroys it.

We are now in Covid-19 shock. We can do nothing now—we cannot make covid-19 un happened. What we can do is we can repent over our past misdoings so as to reenercize ourselves and be so strong that nothing could disturb our peace of mind. Peace and a high morale is what we need to have at the moment so that we could solace ourselves having seen just the greener and the positive sides. The peace is needed not only in us but anywhere and everywhere including in the sky, the space, the earth, the waters and plants. Let us sing the following Shloka to this end:

ॐ द्यौः शान्तिरन्तरिक्षं शान्तिः
पृथिवी शान्तिरापः शान्तिरोषधयः शान्तिः ।
वनस्पतयः शान्तिर्विश्वेदेवाः शान्तिर्ब्रह्म शान्तिः
सर्वं शान्तिः शान्तिरेव शान्तिः सा मा शान्तिरेधि ॥
ॐ शान्तिः शान्तिः शान्तिः ॥

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