Be careful for the following epidemic – Well being and Way of life

(Photos courtesy of WHO)

By Henrylito D. Tacio

In 2018, Typhoon Ompong tore a path of destruction through the northern part of the Philippines. The typhoon known internationally as Mangkhut landed in Baggao, Cagayan on September 15 with a wind of 250 kilometers per hour and caused storm surges, flash floods and landslides.

The typhoon was reminiscent of one of the most powerful tropical cyclones ever recorded and which had also hit the country five years earlier: super typhoon Yolanda. Known internationally as Haiyan, it caused catastrophic damage to much of the Leyte Islands, where cities and towns were largely destroyed.

(Photos courtesy of WHO)

Yolanda was considered to be the second deadliest typhoon to hit the country. after the Haiphong of 1881 (in which about 20,000 people died). The 2013 typhoon killed 6,300 people and injured another 28,000. The damage amounted to more than $ 2 billion, including more than 2,000 health facilities that were damaged or destroyed.

History would have repeated itself. But the country has already learned its lessons. This time it was better prepared. The Philippine authority for atmospheric, geophysical and astronomical services issued warning signals for tropical cyclones on September 13. Preventive and forced evacuations were carried out in the administrative regions of Ilocos, Cagayan Valley and Cordillera in particular.

For its part, the Ministry of Health acted swiftly, activated monitoring of emergency diseases and immediately deployed personnel, medicines and supplies in the region. Relief supplies were prepared two days before the typhoon landed.

By September 22, the National Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Council confirmed that the typhoon had caused the deaths of 127 people. 80 of these deaths occurred when a small mine collapsed in the town of Itogon, Benguet, where dozens of landslides buried houses.

In some ways, luck may also have helped keep the death toll from being so high, despite Typhoon Ompong being the third largest tropical cyclone in the world that year. The typhoon’s path was far to the north, in a less populated area that is somewhat protected by mountains.

“In any outbreak or emergency, some factors are always beyond human control and are unique to the event,” the United Nations health agency said in a statement. “What is certain, however, is that careful readiness and rapid response can limit the loss of life, social disruption and economic loss.”

In his book Connections, James Burke wrote, “Why should we look to the past to prepare for the future? Because there is nowhere else to be seen. American statesman Benjamin Franklin added, “If you don’t prepare, you are preparing to fail.”

The world should not only be prepared for natural disasters – also for epidemics. For the first time in history, the world will celebrate International Epidemic Preparation Day on December 27th. The General Assembly of the United Nations called for the importance of prevention, preparation and partnership against epidemics.

“The COVID-19 pandemic has shown the importance of investing in systems to prevent, detect and respond to infectious disease outbreaks,” said WHO of 2019 coronavirus disease, which is wreaking havoc around the world.

“With COVID-19 now killing more than 1.7 million people, destroying economies, turning societies upside down and exposing the world’s weaknesses in the worst possible ways, the value of emergency preparedness has risen like never before,” said UN- General Secretary Antonio Guterres.

(Photos courtesy of WHO)

“As we strive to control and recover from the current pandemic, we need to think about the next,” he continued. “Unfortunately, it’s easy to imagine a virus being just as contagious, but even more deadly.”

In a press release, Guterres said the world could already learn many lessons from past experiences.

“Prevention is a solid investment that costs far less than emergency expenses,” he said. “Societies need stronger health systems, including universal health insurance. People and families need more social protection. Frontline communities need timely support. “

The UN official suggested that “more effective technical cooperation” between countries is needed. “And we must pay more attention to human and livestock encroachment on animal habitats. 75% of new and emerging infectious diseases in humans are zoonotic. “

All of this must be done scientifically, he stressed. “Science must be our guide in this work,” Guterres emphasized. “Solidarity and coordination are vital within and between countries. Nobody is safe unless we are all safe. “

It is only appropriate to raise awareness of epidemics on a specific day of the year.

“In the absence of international attention, future epidemics could outperform previous outbreaks in terms of intensity and gravity,” the WHO said in a statement. “There is a great need for awareness-raising, information sharing, scientific knowledge and best practice, quality education and programs to promote epidemics at local, national, regional and global levels as effective measures to prevent and control epidemics.”

International Epidemic Preparation Day coincides with the date of birth of Louis Pasteur, the French biologist for pioneering work on vaccination.

“To honor his work, I salute today’s medical professionals, frontline workers, and key contributors who have led the world through this emergency with such remarkable dedication,” said Guterres. “When we recover from the pandemic, we want to make a decision to build our prevention capabilities so we can be ready when the world is about to hit the next outbreak.”

(Photos courtesy of WHO)

Meanwhile, a new strain of COVID-19 has been reported that is potentially 70% more contagious than previous ones. On December 14, the British authorities informed the WHO that a new variant had been identified.

Regarding the UK tribe, the WHO made the following statement: “There is currently insufficient information to determine whether this variant is associated with changes in clinical disease severity, antibody response or vaccine effectiveness.”

Countries where the mutated virus has been reported include Japan, Singapore, Hong Kong, and Australia.

Another variant of COVID-19, different from the one excavated in the UK, has been reported in South Africa.

Because of this new development, President Rodrigo R. Duterte approved the extension of the travel ban on flights from the UK for another two weeks. The ban originally expires on December 31st. – ###

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