The sustainability dialogue behind the coronavirus

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Photo by huntlh at Pixabay


The Novel Coronavirus, or 2019-nCoV, has cost a lot of panic and hysteria across the world. From closures of national borders, panic-buying of face masks, down to the revelation that outbreaks can even cause racism — this event has shown a lot of humanity’s sides in just a span of a few weeks.

But out of this outbreak, there are many important, life-and-death-related things that we’re also learning.

The road to a universal flu vaccine

For one, the world is now even more focused on creating a universal flu vaccine. As the 2019-nCoV spread and infected people across the world, scientists have been analyzing the virus and are recently creating breakthroughs.

The road to a universal flu vaccine still seems far off, but we’re on the way there. One of the many organizations working to develop this vaccine is Distributed Bio. As stated in their website, they are creating “a new paradigm in antibody engineering and broad-spectrum vaccine design“.

Once a universal flu vaccine is created, we no longer have to worry much about being sick during flu seasons. Imagine a world with much less instances and deaths from flu viruses. Believe it or not, flu viruses are extremely common and seen everyday. It can be fatal for people with very weak immune systems.

Viruses are constantly evolving into new strains. And we haven’t even discovered all the different types of viruses in the world. This means that we should rather be giving more attention to developing a vaccine. The medical sector should move and develop vaccines as fast as how viruses mutate — but only with the help of world leaders.

Ancient viruses living in ice and permafrost

Humans have been living alongside bacteria and viruses throughout evolution. From the bubonic plague to smallpox, we have probably experienced it all — sadly, the reality is that we still haven’t. We probably haven’t even experienced the worst yet.

Don’t forget that there are many bacteria and viruses currently buried in ice and permafrost. With the current rate of the climate crisis, this could get worse and melt the ice and permafrost. If and when they melt, we will potentially have even more public health emergencies of international concern.

This is exactly why the climate crisis should be of paramount concern, because it practically affects every living fiber and being imaginable in the planet. It should not be taken lightly at all costs.

Mobilizations on national scales

Many countries are now implementing critical measures to contain and avoid the further spread of the coronavirus. They’re working extremely fast to protect their citizens.

Even the World Health Organization has now declared this outbreak a public health emergency of international concern. The declaration took a bit of time because it typically requires a huge amount of money and resources, and may also invoke governments to restrict travel and trade to affected countries. Moreover, the declaration imposes more disease reporting requirements on countries. Simply put, there are a lot of logistical, political, and financial concerns, among others, before you can sufficiently declare an outbreak a public health emergency of international concern.

One of the biggest concerns is that countries with weak public health systems are the most vulnerable to this outbreak. Ill-prepared countries are also a big challenge.

In the Philippines, for instance, we only currently have one facility where the coronavirus can be tested: the Research Institute for Tropical Medicine (RITM) at Alabang. And the medical instrument to test the coronavirus in RITM was only just recently bought from Japan. Moreover, the government is also only recently beginning to realize that we have our own labs to help validate the presence of the coronavirus. Suffice to say — there are many holes in the Philippine public health system that we have to address in order to prepare for pandemics.

The Philippine government has also been strangely passive amid this outbreak. While Filipinos do understand that any form of public panic can potentially exacerbate the situation, they have also been constantly demanding the government to take a responsible sense of urgency and act accordingly in response to the spread of the disease. As to what would finally trigger a ‘flow state’ or proactive, consistent responses from the government, we don’t know yet.

Individual efforts matter

Because of the coronavirus, people are learning how to use face masks properly, and are even beginning to understand the science behind these. People are also learning to share the proper information and prevention tips to their peers. All these were possible thanks to social media.

But again, not all are acting as proactively. And this is something that we all need to work on.

Individual efforts matter more than ever. In times of outbreaks, public panic is understandable. It does no good to normalize this outbreak and translate it merely to just ‘another flu virus’. While it was slowly revealed that the virus is not as fatal as initially thought, we are still better off sharing helpful information, protecting ourselves, and practicing proper hygiene, among others.

What does this outbreak mean for sustainability?

Sustainability is commonly defined as “meeting the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their needs“.

While it’s true that the 2019-nCoV is not as fatal as initially thought, its outbreak reveals a lot in terms of the world’s capability to contain an actually fatal pandemic. If the next potential pandemic, for instance, were to start in China, and knowing that China is known to censor public information, there would be possible complications.

This is why the world will need to prepare as much as it can for the next, global pandemic. As a sustainability imperative, these preparations are necessary to secure and protect future generations. The development of a universal flu vaccine is but one of the preparations underway for such a concern of global proportions.

What we can do as individuals scanning the web is simple: share truthful information and be informed of what we can do to protect ourselves and our peers.


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