Image Courtesy of Pixabay; https://pixabay.com/photos/person-suit-medical-protection-5441453/
Jasper Danielson, Queen’s University
Edited by: Sefanit Zeray
After the better part of two years, it seems as if the COVID pandemic might persist for an eternity. Face-covering masks have become the norm, working remotely is more common than ever, and ‘social distancing’ has rapidly turned into one of the most infamous phrasings in the English language. The world has truly been turned upside down — you would be hard-pressed to find any individual who wholeheartedly enjoyed every aspect of the current pandemic. With these difficulties in mind, preparation against potential future pandemics becomes paramount. But how can we, humankind, prepare ourselves against every potential pandemic and account for every possible threat?
When viruses vary to such a great extent, preparation against any single one is of little use; one cannot gamble the world’s well-being on the notion that one specific virus may be dangerous enough to warrant all of the world’s resources when there are an innumerable number of similarly dangerous others. As such, a more comprehensive approach must be taken in order for the world to be prepared for any and all scenarios. Professor Ugurhan Berkok, a national security economics and healthcare economics specialist, provides some insight into the matter and suggests two main methods of preparation.
First, general preparation is essential. That is, although viruses may not share every characteristic with one another, common traits are still existent and can be used to our advantage. Virtually all airborne viruses can be inhibited through mask-wearing (as seen every day through the current state of affairs), bloodborne viruses can be hampered by avoiding direct contact and so on and so forth. Under this premise, general preparation can be made whether potentially dangerous viruses can be foreseen or not and, regardless of the virus’ characteristics, humankind will not be left defenseless. The faster speed at which these preventative measures are able to be put in place as a result of their preparatory conception, the more effective they will be in deterring potential outbreaks and leading to easier recoveries. That is, the less the world is impacted by an outbreak, the less it will have to recover (Berkok, personal communication, November 7, 2021).
Second, transparency in terms of knowledge and information is critical and beneficial to all parties involved. A pandemic, by definition, is a worldwide issue. For this reason, international cooperation is imperative: it both ensures that the most up-to-date information is widely accessible, and it allows the research process to be as fast as possible considering researchers can build upon one another’s work. Rather than racing to beat one another to find a vaccine, cooperative efforts ensure the best outcome for all; the results can be achieved sooner and the implementation can then be carried out more effectively (Berkok, personal communication, November 7, 2021).
These practices that Berkok suggests, although effective, will not in themselves stop the occurrence of every pandemic. Keeping this in mind, preventative practices must be altered in order to best fit the situation. A particularly contagious virus may require social distancing to a greater extent, while a smaller virus may require better protective equipment, and many variations of a single virus may necessitate a new vaccine. Overall then, it appears as though the deal-breaking factor in terms of pandemic prevention is flexibility: to fit the situation, better stop the spreading, or even foresee otherwise unforeseen scenarios. If we cannot adapt to change, our well-being can never truly be guaranteed. Although we may not be able to predict every potential outbreak, our ability to tailor our actions to fit every situation will allow us to minimize pandemic-related catastrophes.
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. (n.d.). Perspectives in disease prevention and health promotion update: Universal Precautions for prevention of transmission of human immunodeficiency virus, hepatitis B virus, and other bloodborne pathogens in health-care settings. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Retrieved November 16, 2021, from https://www.cdc.gov/mmwr/preview/mmwrhtml/00000039.htm.
Pietrangelo, A. (March 19, 2020). What are airborne diseases? Healthline. Retrieved November 16, 2021, from https://www.healthline.com/health/airborne-diseases#types.