Book: The Corona Virus: What you need to know about the global pandemic
Author: Dr Swapneil Parikh, Maherra Desai, Dr. Rajesh Parikh
Joshua Leaderberg, Nobel prize winner in physiology and medicine once said, “viruses pose the single biggest threat to man’s continued dominance on this planet”.
As of April 15, over 20 lakh people across the globe have been infected by the coronavirus and 1.26 lakh people have lost their lives. Closer home, in India, we have reported 11,555 cases of which 396 people have died due to the pandemic. While the country has tested 2.45 lakh people, a closer look suggests that we have tested only 177 tests per million population till now, which means India needs to increase its tests, not just of those patients who come in with symptoms but the asymptomatic ones too.
Three Mumbai-based medical practitioners have written this week's book pick, which traces the history of the coronavirus, its symptoms, myths around it and the financial impact it will create around the world.
The symptoms of the coronavirus are dangerously similar to that of the common flu: Fever, coughing, breathlessness, tiredness, headache and muscle pain. But in India, which has such a high population density, we are slowly moving towards cluster transmission.
In 2007, an article in Clinical Microbiology Reviews by researchers of University of Hong Kong, termed coronavirus “a time bomb”; yet, 13 years later, the world is still grappling with the mutating virus which, for now, is leading the race.
Dr. Marc Lipsitch, professor of endomology at Harvard University has also predicted that after the Covid-19 pandemic ends, the SARS-CoV-2 or novel coronavirus might enter regular circulation and cause seasonal Covid-19 outbreaks every year or every few years. Alternatively, it might disappear and re-emerge by 2025. Thus, it becomes pertinent for medical researchers and pharmaceutical companies to finance more R&D towards battling infectious diseases rather than deploying capital towards high-margin lifestyle healthcare medicine.
The book gives a close insight into the biological evolution of this virus and other pandemics the world has seen, including the Spanish flu, which is also dubbed as the mother of all pandemics, until now.
It is important to explain why this virus spreads so fast and even though as human beings we are not used to standing far apart, why we should maintain social distance.
The coronavirus is like a really small bubble, approximately 120 nanometres in diameter, with many tiny clubs projecting from the surface. The simplest way to put it is to imagine two soap bubbles fused together to become a bigger bubble. Similarly, when the corona virus bubble fuses with the human cell, some proteins are left behind on cell membranes. So when an infected cell fuses with its neighboring uninfected cell, just like the soap bubbles, they create a giant cell, now infected with the coronavirus.
While the Indian government called for a lockdown, extended to May 3, lockdowns can only buy time for the government to prepare its healthcare infrastructure, manufacture test kits and other medical equipment to wade through the pandemic, say the authors. The solution lies in increased testing, of not only patients with symptoms, but asymptomatic ones too.
Every pandemic comes with a cost and according to the World Bank, each new infection moderately severe or worse is estimated to cost nearly $570 million or 0.7 percent of global income. The latest International Monetary Fund report indicates that the global loss of income due to this pandemic for 2020 and 2021 stands at $9 trillion.
While countries are facing the tough task of fighting the pandemic and the economic casualty, it is important for people to stay safe and stay home, and no, a hot water bath or a sweltering summer will not kill the virus.
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