There seem to be three main stories in our news this week. First is the ongoing impeachment trial of Donald Trump. Second, we heard a lot about the death of Kobe Bryant, the basketball legend who was killed in a helicopter crash on Sunday. Third we heard a lot about the Wuhan Corona virus. Anyone of these topics could have been the subject of a blog- in fact they still might be. Today though I want to think about the Corona virus.
Throughout the ages, people have been concerned about viruses and plagues. Most famous of course is the black death that swept through Europe through a good portion of the last millennium. Millions of people died until humanity learned to improve their hygiene. After World War I, the Spanish flu was spread by returning soldiers and millions died. HIV and AIDS was a terrifying disease in the 1980's and 1990's. SARS grabbed headlines in 2003. The Corona virus seems to be the next ""plague" which is grabbing all of the headlines.
All of these outbreaks demonstrate that we live in a very connected world. Take SARS for instance. A handful of people in a mid sized city in China ate meat from the civet bat and became ill and some died. Very quickly people in 17 countries died and thousands were made ill. In this age of air travel, a deadly virus can spread in a flash.
SARS and today's Corona virus, have started in China. It does not seem to be a surprise that China is an epicentre. The cities there are very crowded as the country inches forward to having 1.4 billion inhabitants. New wealth and improved transportation systems mean that people have much greater freedom to travel around the country. So it is harder to contain deadly pathogens. However, China is not the only place where viruses and diseases can flourish.
Take refugee camps. Right now there are according to the United Nations, 65 million people who are refugees. Some of these refugees have been resettled in other countries, but many of these refugees are placed in overcrowded camps in places such as Manus and Nairu in Australia, on the other side of Trump's wall, in Palestine. These camps often have little medical care and their sanitation systems are not always the best. A pathogen could quickly spread from these camps.
Prisons in the developed world are not as concerned about the health and sanitation systems for their inmates as we are in the west. In order to save money, prisons are overcrowded. Inmates are often are prescribed partial doses of antibiotics when they are sick or not given any at all. Illnesses could very easily spread to the outside very quickly.
Preventing new outbreaks has proven difficult even in developed countries with good medical systems. However, as demonstrated by SARS, when our health care system goes on high alert, we thankfully have been able to prevent new plagues from killing hundreds of millions of people. It seems imperative to me then that we must do what we can to share medical knowledge about hygiene, epidemiology, technology, drugs, vaccines with countries that are less developed. Medicines and health care should not be seen as a for profit business but should be affordable for all. Everyone should have equal access to the health care that they need. With our ever shrinking world, all doctors everywhere should be able to provide first rate care, Our very lives depend upon it. Blessings.