HomeOpinion & AnalysisPandemics like COVID-19 require public health discipline

Pandemics like COVID-19 require public health discipline


Pandemics come and go but their devastation is beyond measure as so many lives are lost while economies suffer greatlyimmensely as well.

Johannes Marisa

Many people have heard about the 1918 Swine flu which killed about 50 million people, the Asian flu of 1957 and the Hong Kong flu of 1968.

Both the Asian and Hong Kong flu killed nearly four million people and it is suspected that the numbers could be significantly higher than the ones given because of poor collation of statistics at that time.

What was common in all the pandemics was that the second wave was deadlier than the first and those countries that rushed to lift restrictions suffered greatly in terms of both morbidity and mortality.

United States of America lost about 116 000 citizens during the 1957-58 Asian flu attack.

In 2019, COVID-19 originated from the Chinese province of Wuhan and as of today, at least 2,3 million people have already lost their lives due to the virus with the United States of America being the worst hit with at least 480 000 deaths.

Brazil, India, United Kingdom, Mexico, Spain and Italy are some of the worst affected countries in the world.

Morbidity and mortality of the COVID-19 seem to follow a pattern that does not look at the level of economic development.

The human development index does seem to play a significant role in the control of COVID-19.

While many people thought that countries with low gross domestic products, gross national income or human development index were going to be wiped, it turned out to be the opposite as those countries that are labelled very poor actually performed better than the developed ones.

Zimbabwe has officially recorded over 34 000 cases with 1 353 deaths as of Tuesday while Zambia has recorded about 64 600 cases with about 1 037 deaths.

This is good news for our continent that has long been vilified for neglecting health services.

It should be understood that public health measures are critical in the control of pandemics and this has nothing much to do with having numerous ventilators.

Public health is the science and art of preventing disease, prolonging life and improving quality of life through organised efforts and informed choices by society, organisations, communities and individuals.

Discipline and obedience play critical roles if the battle against COVID-19 is to be won.

Public health measures that our government introduced include mask wearing, sanitisation, hand washing, quarantine of contacts, social distancing and national lockdowns.

Many developed countries like France, Germany, Netherlands, Italy, UK and Spain witnessed many demonstrations against lockdowns with citizens expressing disgust over what they called an infringement on their human rights.

Movement was limited while bars, museums and public places were closed.

Demonstrating in countries like Germany in order to have the lockdown lifted yet more than 800 people are dying everyday, is not only absurd but also shows a high degree of medical ignorance on the part of the demonstrators.

Medical discipline should be exercised at all levels of society.

Lockdowns are not introduced to fix a particular group of people, instead, they are put in place to reduce movement of people in order to discourage crowding as  COVID-19 is transmitted through secretions which include saliva and cough drops.

Social distancing, that leaves at least two metres apart, is of paramount importance as the chances of physical contact are greatly reduced.

Medical patience and discipline are required if the war against the pandemics is to be won.

Myths and conspiracy theories are surely retrogressive.

There has been a lot of social media talk about vaccines being very bad.

Vaccines have always been useful and effective against outbreaks as herd immunity is achieved faster than waiting for natural immunity against the attacks.

The 1957 flu pandemic was caused by influenza H2N2, which few people had previous exposure to.

A vaccine was rapidly developed against H2N2 by American microbiologist, Maurice Hilleman.

The vaccine manufacturers started work on May 12,1957 and trials started from July 26,1957, just two months after the manufacturing date.

The vaccine was available in the United Kingdom in October of the same year and its rapid deployment helped to contain the virus. Many lives were saved.

What was to follow was the Hong Kong flu of 1968 which killed around four million people.

This flu descended from the H2N2 of 1957 through antigenic shift, a genetic process in which genes from multiple subtypes re-assorted to form a new virus.

Again, it was through vaccination that the pandemic was brought to an end.

Medical discipline is needed. The vaccines are coming and it is my prayer that those without medical knowledge will stop spreading falsehoods.

The available COVID-19 vaccines are messenger RNA vaccines that do not contain the coronavirus but they teach your body how to fight the COVID-19 virus in case you are attacked.

Side effects are not uncommon, hence one can expect pain from the injection site, itchiness, headaches, rash, weakness which are, however, manageable.

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