How Pandemics Spread... and How to Help Slow That Spread
The Wright brothers made the first sustained flight of a heavier-than-air aircraft in 1903.
Their invention started the launch of what would become one of the world's greatest industries.
Domestic and international travel via jets has made it possible to quickly transport goods around the globe.
It has allowed businesses to operate globally. And individuals to visit friends and loved ones in countries around the world.
Air Travel Quickens the Spread
But the airplane has also made something else possible. And that's the quick spread of diseases.
We live in an interconnected and increasingly globalized world. Thanks to air travel, people can move from one city or country to another in hours.
But traveling right along with some of them are infectious diseases they carry. And once a disease has entered a country where it did not previously exist, it spreads around the community.
Soon hundreds and often thousands of humans living in close proximity are carrying the disease. And an illness that was once an epidemic is now a pandemic.
Pandemics Can Kill Millions
Prior to routine air travel, diseases spread much more slowly. But if those diseases were deadly enough, they wrecked their havoc over time.
The "Black Death" caused at least 75 million deaths in the mid-1300s. The great flu pandemic of 1918-19 resulted in about 50 million deaths globally.
More recently, SARS (severe acute respiratory syndrome), MERS (Middle East respiratory syndrome) and Ebola have combined to kill thousands.
Not to mention cholera, HIV/AIDS, the Zika virus, swine flu, bird flu and seasonal influenza. And now COVID-19. Nothing spreads these recent diseases quicker than air travel.
Coronavirus Cases Keep Rising
A pandemic is a global outbreak and spread of a disease. It occurs when a new virus emerges to infect people. Because there is no immunity, the virus spreads rapidly. And worldwide.
The impact of pandemics can be as dramatic as wars and natural disasters. And they can create significant economic, social and political disruption.
Until brought under control, they can sicken millions. And kill those most vulnerable.
COVID-19 was declared a pandemic by the World Health Organization on March 11. As of this writing (sure to be outdated by the time you read this), there are just over 24 million confirmed cases worldwide. And more than 800,00 deaths.
Pandemic Phases in a Nutshell
There are a variety of phases for a pandemic. First, a new type of virus is identified and studied. Next, an increase of cases is identified. With potential for person-to-person transmission.
Third, cases are confirmed with both efficient and sustained person-to-person transmission.
Next, public health officials take measures. Including recommending the closing of schools, non-essential businesses, restaurants, etc. And canceling large gatherings of people.
Fifth, eventually the number of new cases decreases. Health officials continue to monitor the virus. And prepare for a potential new wave.
Prevention, Not Panic
In English, you can find the word "panic" within "pandemic." But panicking and hoarding do more harm than good.
And exposing yourself to an endless barrage of news reports about the coronavirus can be unhealthy as well.
It's better to focus on constructive ways to help slow the spread of COVID-19. Such as social distancing.
Here are some recommendations. You've heard most, but reminders never hurt at a time when we need to be diligent.
Keep Your Hands Clean
Use soap and warm water to wash your hands frequently, for at least 20 seconds. Rub your palms, fingers, in between your fingers, the backs of your hands and your fingernails.
If soap and warm water are unavailable, use an alcohol-based hand sanitizer. Keep rubbing until all the moisture has seeped in.
Clean your hands before putting anything in your mouth. Including food, vitamins and medications. Clean them after using the bathroom and taking out the trash.
Make sure any healthcare provider treating you for anything is wearing latex or surgical gloves.
It's difficult for viruses and bacteria to enter our bodies through skin, which is generally tough. But they can "live" on hands and enter through our mouths, noses and eyes. Avoid touching those areas of your face.
Cover your mouth and nose with a tissue when you cough or sneeze. Dispose of the tissue immediately.
Take a daily shower or bath. Keeping our bodies clean is another way to thwart viruses and bacteria. Don't share bath towels with others in your home.
Brush your teeth at least twice per day. And floss once a day. Keep gums and dentures clean.
Exercise and Nutrition
It's as important as ever to keep our immune systems strong. The best ways to do that are regular exercise and eating healthy foods.
Even if you're practicing self-quarantining, take a 20- to 30-minute walk on a daily basis. You can always cross the street when someone is walking toward you.
Make sure to eat plenty of fruits and vegetables. They are high in vitamins and minerals.
Include lean meats, poultry, fish, beans, eggs and nuts in your diet for their protein. Limit the amount of saturated fats, trans fats, cholesterol, salt and added sugars you consume.
There is no cure for a pandemic like COVID-19 for now. So in the meantime, let's focus on things that have the best chance of keeping us and our loved ones healthy.