Alanna Shaikh has been working in global health for about 20 years, with a specialty in the health system and what happens when health systems experience severe shocks i.e. what happens when diseases move on a large level. She has also led epidemiology efforts ranging from evaluating Ebola treatment centers to looking at the transmission of tuberculosis in health facilities and doing avian influenza preparedness. And here are her views on COVID-19.
COVID-19 is a novel virus and is a coronavirus just like SARS or MERS are. They are all respiratory viruses that damage the respiratory system. All coronaviruses are zoonotic which means they transmit from animals to people. COVID-19, however, transmits also from person to person thus it travels faster and farther. COVID-19 skipped from animal to people at a wild animal market in Wuhan, China.
COVID-19 is not the last epidemic that we’ll see, unfortunately. There are going to be more epidemics as a result of the way that we, as human beings, are interacting with our planet. Part of it is because of climate change and the way a warmer climate makes the world more susceptible to bacteria and viruses. However, it’s also about the way we’re pushing into the last wild spaces on our planet.
When we burn and plow the Amazon rainforest so that we can have cheap land for ranching, when the last of the African bush gets converted into farms, when wild animals in China are hunted to extinction, human beings come into contact with wildlife populations that they’ve never come into contact with before, and those populations have new kinds of diseases.
She says that we can’t stop the outbreaks with quarantine or travel restrictions because it is very hard to do so and act so quickly that they can actually stop the outbreak instantly. That is not possible. And with this virus, you can be infected for 24 days with no symptom and carry the virus with you without knowing that you need to be quarantined.
According to her, if we really want to slow down these outbreaks and minimize their impact, we need to make sure that every country in the world has the capacity to identify new diseases, treat them, and report about them so they can share information.
“If we’d been perfectly prepared for COVID-19, China would’ve identified the outbreak faster. They would’ve been ready to provide care to infected people without having to build new buildings. They would’ve shared honest information with citizens so that we didn’t see these crazy rumors spreading on social media in China.
And, they would’ve shared information with global health authorities so that they could start reporting to national health systems and getting ready for when the virus spread. National health systems would then have been able to stockpile the protective equipment they needed and train health care providers on treatment and infection control.”
However, even with all of this, we are still going to have outbreaks because of how we occupy this planet of ours. Watch more on this in the video below.