Confirmed COVID-19 cases cross 10 lakh in India; here's a look at how pandemics end
If previous pandemics have taught us anything it is that every pandemic eventually comes to an end. It depends on how religiously the masses follow the right measures and in what way the pathogen evolves
As of the morning of 17 July, more than 1 million people have been reported coronavirus positive in India. Out of this, over 25,000 people have already succumbed to the disease and more than 6,00000 have recovered.
The World Health Organisation announced on 13 July that the worst is yet to come.
While most people were wondering when they will be able to return to normal life, now we’re looking at adopting a new normal where we continue to take extra precautions.
If previous pandemics have taught us anything it is that every pandemic eventually comes to an end. It depends on how religiously the masses follow the right measures and in what way the pathogen evolves (if it does so at all). While we can’t control the latter, we can definitely adapt to lifestyle changes that can help reduce the spread of the disease.
Identify, contain and trace
One of the ways to stop the pandemic in its tracks is to break the chain of transmission. This was what had helped to stop the spread of SARS (Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome). All the possible patients are tested, quarantined and treated. Contact tracing is done to ensure that nobody that came in contact with the patient has got the disease or has further spread the disease. This is the policy that most of the countries are following for COVID-19 too.
Let it go
By now, most of us have heard the term herd immunity. According to this concept, a disease disappears itself eventually once enough people have got immunity to it, whether by getting the disease or a vaccine. Some experts had suggested that letting herd immunity build by enough people getting the infections could help get rid of COVID-19 quickly.
However, there are a lot of reasons why this is not feasible in the current pandemic. First of all, not much is known about the disease or how our immune system reacts to the virus. Secondly, scientists are still unsure if a person can get the infection again. So, letting more people get the disease is certainly out of question, especially considering we don’t have a definitive treatment for it yet.
Live with it
Another way pandemics end is when people learn to live with them. In the case of COVID-19, this would include measures like social distancing, handwashing, and sanitising becoming the norm. When everyone follows these measures religiously, the virus would soon be unable to infect a healthy person and the transmission chain of the disease will break.
Immunity derived from a vaccine, however short-lived, could be one of the best and safest options to end the pandemic. Vaccines contain live or dead pathogens or some parts of the pathogen, which when injected into a person’s body leads to the production of antibodies against the said pathogen. This results in one receiving immunity against the disease without ever falling sick.
The catch is that COVID-19 is a viral disease and viruses mutate. Mutation is why the WHO has to release a new vaccine for flu every year. Still, any vaccine is better than no vaccine at all.
Finally, it may be too early to give a deadline to the end of the pandemic. However, a combination of all the above measures - things that had worked in the past - may be helpful.
For more information, read our article on How do pandemics end.
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